Fire From Plastic Floor Covering

Fire From Plastic Floor Covering

Two men were at work laying T. M. B. plastic floor covering on the second floor of a new Masonic Temple building, a two-story, fire-resistive building which had just been completed in New Orleans, La. The floor covering for the first floor had been completed the previous day. The men were using a blow torch presumably to smooth out lumps in the floor surfacing which hardens very rapidly, as it is put down in thin coats, gasoline or naphtha being used as a solvent. This torch set fire to the gasoline saturated flooring and flames spread so rapidly that both men were seriously burned before they could escape and had to be removed from building by other workmen. The flooring was burned and also considerable damage was done to plastering and wood doors, etc. Both men died from burns several days later.

Patented plaster floor coverings are now being quite widely used. There is a severe hazard involved in the process of laying them due to the highly inflammable nature of the solvents used. This type of flooring is used as a wearing surface over concrete floors. When it hardens and sets it gives a finish similar to linoleum and a firm and resilient floor. The name of the floor covering used in the above building was “T. M. B.,” manufactured by the Thomas Moulding Brick Company of Chicago, Ill. The material is shipped in steel drums. It resembles asphalt which forms its base and contains other materials such as asbestos fibre, silica sand and mineral pigments. Naphtha or a similar volatile solvent is used to work the compound into a plastic state. The drums are emptied into a mixing vat and thoroughly stirred and mixed before laying.

If further thinning is necessary, ordinary gasoline is generally used. In laying the flooring, it is spread with a trowel in several thin coats which dry rapidly. This flooring, when completed, is about 1 1/4-inch thick. Since the process of laying this type of flooring depends on its quick-drying qualities, due to the volatility of the solvents used, the surrounding air is sure to become charged with a highly explosive vapor which may be ignited by any small spark, flame or other source.

Manufacturers of various types of plastic floor coverings recognize the hazard of laying this type of flooring for they furnish with each consignment, “No Smoking” signs to be displayed in the building when the material is being used and workmen are particularly warned.

This fire shows that in spite of the warning and instructions to he careful, the employees are careless and apparently do nor realize the material they are working is hazardous to life as well as property.

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