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Explosives safety alert no. 76 | 28 October 2013 | Version 1

Accidental initiation of distress signal in collection bin

What happened?

An expired marine distress signal was accidentally initiated while being placed in a collection bin at a volunteer marine rescue (VMR) location. The distress signal was a Comet light smoke signal which produced dense orange smoke for approximately 15 minutes after its accidental ignition.

On this occasion there were no injuries however there was the potential for the distress signal to ignite other flares in the collection bin due to heat generated.


  1. Secure the firing mechanism on all distress signals being surrendered to collection bins so they cannot be accidentally activated. Smaller collection bins are provided for the disposal of damaged signal devices.
  2. Prevent the distress signal from firing by cautiously placing distress signals into collection bins.
  3. Collection bins are not for general waste. Putting general waste into the collection bins increases the risk of accidental initiation and impacts from fire.
  4. Keep collection bins in a secure area inaccessible to the public.
  5. Hand distress signals to staff members who will place them in the appropriate collection containers.
  6. Companies operating on a commercial basis make arrangements directly with the Government Explosives Reserves for the disposal of distress signals such as the comet light smoke signal device.

Investigations are ongoing and further information may be published as it becomes available. The information in this publication is what is known at the time of writing.

We issue Safety Notices to draw attention to the occurrence of a serious incident, raise awareness of risks, and prompt assessment of your existing controls.

Authorised by Geoff Downs - Chief Inspector of Explosives

Contact: Manager, Explosives Licensing , +61 7 3199 8057

Issued by Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines

Safety: This information is a guide only and is issued to promote safety through experience. It is not to be taken as a statement of law and must not be construed to waive or modify any legal obligation.