Accidental Flaming of Methanol Bottle Causes 1st and 2nd Degree Burns

What Happened?

A researcher was adding methanol to a container to dissolve chloramphenicol for media preparation. He accidentally “flamed” the rim of the methanol bottle with the Bunsen burner, and the methanol caught fire. The researcher rapidly placed the burning methanol bottle onto the lab bench causing the methanol to splash out and setting the researcher’s clothes on fire. The researcher immediately dropped to the ground and rolled to extinguish the fire. A co-worker helped to remove the burning clothes and took the injured researcher for medical attention. The researcher suffered first and second degree burns. At the time of the accident, the researcher was not working in a chemical safety hood and was not wearing a lab coat and eye-protection. None of the researchers knew where the safety shower, fire extinguisher and fire blanket were located. Furthermore, the researcher was inexperienced and prepared the medium without supervsion.

What Was The Cause?

This incident was caused by accidental flaming of a flammable liquid.

What Corrective Actions Were Taken?

  • Discuss and review the SOP for dissolving antibiotics in methanol and media making
  • Review emergency procedures and locate safety shower, fire extinguisher and fire blanket
  • Provide PPE training
  • Properly train new researchers in executing experiments and supervise until researchers gain sufficient experience

How Can Incidents Like This Be Prevented?

The amount of methanol used in this incident was relatively small, about 100ml; however, the incident could have caused more serious injuries if help would not have arrived in time. This incident is especially worrisome since none of the lab members knew where the safety shower and other fire extinguishing equipment were located.

  • Work with hazardous chemicals only when trained
  • Wear appropriate PPE including a flame resistant lab coat, eye protection and gloves when handling flammable liquids and a Bunsen burner
  • Dissolve antibiotics in methanol inside the chemical safety hood with the Bunsen burner turned off




  1. Locate safety shower, fire extinguisher, and fire blanket if present
  2. Know how to operate a fire extinguisher
  3. When in doubt call 911
  4. Report any type of fire to your supervisor



  • Hazardous to skin, eyes
  • Harmful when inhaled or ingested (can cause blindness)
  • Flammable