Disposable Diaper Hazard
The New Jersey Department of Institutions and Agencies recently experienced a patient fatality at one of the state-operated welfare institutions. Subsequent investigation of the unfortunate incident disclosed that incontinent pads (disposable diapers) which are supplied to hospitals, nursing homes, welfare homes, etc., for use on patients are extremely flammable. The pads are composed of a waxed paper with a high bulk wadding paper filler and non-woven fabric facing.
In the incident, a patient had been left unattended while smoking and in possession of matches. Evidence indicates that a match was dropped on the incontinent pad which immediately ignited, and in turn, set fire to the patients’ pajamas, blanket and wheel chair in which the patient was seated. Death occurred the next day from the effects of severe burns.
Tests revealed that a lighted match, dropped on a pad, would instantaneously ignite the material. A flash fire would result creating flames from 1 to 1 1/2 feet in height and the pad would be consumed in less than 28 seconds.
Howard R. Hutchinson, fire marshal and safety director of the state agency, immediately informed the manufacturer of the pad of his findings. After similar tests, the manufacturer agreed with the results and directed that research be undertaken immediately to make the pads fire resistant.