Can an office chair explode and kill you?
After rumors began to circulate about the possibility that gaming and office chairs can explode and kill you, there were plenty of people who became unnecessarily stressed out.
The simple answer to this urgent question is that while it’s conceivably possible for an office chair or gaming chair to explode, it is incredibly unlikely for a chair to explode and kill you.
Have Office Chairs Ever Exploded?
Let’s face it: life in the modern world can be tough, and we don’t need any more sources of anxiety.
The public fear about exploding chairs began to circulate after several stories emerged in the mid-to-late-2000s, mostly in China.
This geographic dimension will be important later in this article when we discuss causes.
The first incident on record came in 2008, when a 65-year-old man was severely injured when a 150mm steel rod exploded out of his chair.
The rod eventually hit the ceiling and ended up hurting his arms and back.
Most tragically, in 2009, a 14-year-old-boy apparently died from injuries he sustained when a gas cylinder in his office chair exploded and sent shards of metal into his lower body.
According to reports, the boy’s injuries weren’t treated promptly and he died from excessive bleeding.
The most recent story came in 2013 when a Chinese woman was severely injured when her chair exploded while she was dyeing her chair.
While she sustained serious injuries when plastic and screws dug into her flesh, surgeons were able to remove them.
Note that these kinds of incidents, where the office chair exploded and caused harm to the people, are not frequent. We couldn’t find any incidents for the past few years. Also, the overall safety of chairs has been worked on regularly, so chairs available now are a huge improvement that the ones sold 5-10 years ago
Are These Stories about Chair Exploding Real?
In short, maybe. These stories came to the public through various mediums–some were recorded on YouTube and circulated on Reddit, while others popped up in local news.
For that reason, it’s difficult to determine whether these events actually happened because local news and anecdotes can be notoriously slippery.
But to speak more abstractly, the important thing to remember with these stories is that they’re extremely isolated cases.
For reasons we’ll discuss in a moment, these tragedies are very unlikely to happen regularly.
The reason why an office chair might theoretically explode is because of the pressurized canisters built into chairs.
These canisters are the mechanism by which a chair slides up and down.
The way these canisters work is that when a user pushes down on or pulls up on a lever, a gas spring mechanism compresses nitrogen gas to raise or lower the seat.
These canisters are often also coated in oil to reduce their friction.
Now, this gas compression can produce a lot of energy.
If that energy were to be released, like if the chair was compromised, then pressing on the lever could cause explosive decompression.
As gas flows out of the piston, there would be such a powerful release of energy that the canister would be propelled the only place it can go: upward.
On top of that, the oil coating the canister would increase its speed and potentially make it more harmful.
The energy would be so strong that it could rip the wheels from the chair and tear through the leather or fabric.
Keep in mind that the reason this is so harmful is that this is effectively the same physical process as firing a bullet.
Both are essentially a small decompressive explosion propelling a very small metal device.
But instead of a very small lead or copper projectile, the canister is a very large metal tube, which means that the results won’t exactly be pretty.
In short, probably not. In order to dodge expenses, many companies use air canisters filled with pressurized air instead of gas, and these canisters can be less secure.
If such a canister were made in a shoddy way, they would have a higher chance of exploding.
In the case of those famous chair explosions, many people have speculated that the chairs in question had compromised canisters.
In other words, these tragedies were highly related to defective engineering.
Should You Be Worried?
The short answer is No. If you’re buying a chair in the United States, Canada, Australia, the UK, or Europe, there are extremely high standards for chair manufacturers.
This means that every gas canister receives very rigorous examination and testing to prevent explosion-related tragedies.
On top of that, even if a defective gas canister slips past the vetting process, its design is very high-quality.
This means that the chair would have to be put under extreme duress to explode.
In case you’re extra anxious about your office chair exploding (which, to be very clear, you should not be), there are ways to explosion-proof your chair.
Hopefully, this will be enough to take some anxiety off your plate.
First, make sure you’re not buying an office chair or gaming chair from someone unreputable.
Basically, if you have to ask whether a salesman would sell you an exploding office chair, you probably shouldn’t buy anything from them.
Instead, stick to highly reputable brands like Ikea, Herman Miller, and Steelcase.
Additionally, keep an eye out for a faulty gas canister. You can tell a canister is faulty if the chair isn’t rising or falling at a consistent rate, or if you can hear strange sounds when it’s moving.
It’s a relatively simple process to replace a gas canister if it’s defective; the instructions are likely included in your chair’s user manual.
If you’re concerned about it, contact the chair company’s customer service department.
Also, be sure to use your office chair in a responsible, non-explosion-producing way.
This seems pretty intuitive, but we say this because we don’t want any of you caught in chair explosions.
So, to avoid chair-based explosions: don’t dunk a chair underwater or take a chair on an airline.
Don’t throw a chair in a fire, and don’t take a fire axe to a chair unless there’s a surrounding fire.
All of this should go without saying. Again, if you’re concerned, you can follow a pretty simple code of conduct.
If you have to ask whether your chair usage could make your chair explode, then you probably shouldn’t be using your chair that way.
Again, probably not. As we saw in these famous examples, exploding chair canisters can certainly cause injury, but these injuries don’t necessarily end in death.
The main danger of the explosion isn’t that you’ll be blown apart, but that the plastic and metal components of the chair can lacerate or become lodged in your body.
In many cases, if you receive medical attention in a prompt manner, then doctors should be able to extricate any shrapnel from your body, whether it’s plastic, screws, or metal fragments.
The key, at the end of the day, is to not be negligent.
If you suddenly notice that your chair has explosively decompressed and deposited shrapnel in your body, you should definitely seek medical attention.
To make a long story short, it’s a remote (like, astronomically remote) possibility for an office chair’s gas canister to explode and kill you.
Keep in mind, though, that strong manufacturing procedures will prevent an extraordinarily large number of explosions from occurring.
On top of that, it would take a lot of stress for any explosion to actually happen.
And even on top of that, it’s still not a sure thing that you’ll be hurt, severely injured, or killed.
As we saw in the examples above, exploding chairs can cause injury, but it takes a lot of negligence to cause death.
So, in case you were worried, you can put your concerns to rest. It is extraordinarily, obscenely unlikely for your office chair to explode and kill you. So go forth, reader, and sit responsibly!
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