Can Office Chairs Explode?

Can Office Chairs Explode

If you’re on the hunt for an office chair, during your research, you might notice that certain chairs have gas spring ratings. Some of these springs are even rated internationally for safety. That makes you a little nervous. Are gas pistons really that dangerous? Can office chairs actually explode?

An office chair can theoretically explode, but that’s very unlikely to happen. If you’re worried about your chair potentially exploding, then use it within the proper parameters and only buy a chair with high safety ratings for the gas spring.

In this post, I’ll talk more about whether office chairs can explode and what causes such an event to occur. I’ll even share a few cautionary tales of office chair explosions and wrap up by discussing preventative measures you can take to keep your chair intact. You’re not going to want to miss it!  

Can Office Chairs Actually Explode? What Causes Office Chairs to Explode?

You may fret about many household objects possibly exploding, such as your microwave, your toaster oven, or maybe even your PlayStation. But your office chair? You hadn’t thought such a thing was possible. 

If you’re a regular viewer of PewDiePie streams, his talking about exploding chairs could have introduced you to the idea, later giving you great pause. You wouldn’t be the only one. This Reddit post on a page dedicated to PewDiePie included Google search trends after PewDiePie’s stream. The data shows how the term “exploding chair” went up in massive search volume once PewDiePie talked about it. 

That has you thinking and wondering, can your office chair explode? I’ll repeat what I said in the intro, sure, it could happen, and it does indeed happen, but not often. In the next section, I’ll delve into the statistical likelihood of your chair ever exploding.

So what could cause your office chair to explode? Isn’t a chair just cushioning, padding, metal, and plastic? Nope. There’s also a little thing called the gas spring.

Office Chair Gas Springs

Gas springs are common in all sorts of everyday items, including the trunk of your car, some doors, and office chairs. The gas spring allows you to adjust your office chair the way you want it, including raising and lowering the height. 

How does a gas spring work? The spring features a combination of lubricating oil and nitrogen gas within. The gas is pressurized, but both it and the oil are sealed tight to prevent leaks. The purpose of the nitrogen gas is to generate energy for the spring so it can compress or release when you need to adjust your office chair.

The oil, besides acting as a lubricant, can also dampen piston movement, aka keeping the movement smooth and slow. Wait, a piston? Yes, a piston. This is another part of the gas spring along with the rod. The two components are contained within a heavy-duty steel cylinder. The piston attaches to the rod.

Let’s say you apply pressure on your gas spring. The piston and the rod both move forward but do not exit their cylinder. Still, their movement is enough to compress the nitrogen gas. If you release the gas spring, the gas lets go of its pressure, sending the piston out. 

The gas encircles the piston and goes through it, typically because the piston is designed with valves or holes that allow the gas to travel more freely. Although the piston itself doesn’t compress the gas, the cylinder does since the gas is entrapped within. So when you push on a gas spring all the way, the gas is compressed to a volume that’s the equivalent of the piston rod’s volume.

In other words, the pressure of the gas climbs to very high levels. Compared to normal atmospheric pressure, the gas pressure can be as high as 170 times more. You can see then where the potential lies for a possible office chair explosion. 

What Is the Likelihood of an Office Chair Exploding?

Okay, so there’s potential for an explosion, but just how much potential are we talking about here? That’s a bit hard to say. I’ve seen stats that suggest the chances of your office chair exploding are like one in a trillion, which could very well be true. I wasn’t able to track down more concrete data, so I’ll just say this: the likelihood of an office chair explosion is low. Very low.

That doesn’t mean you should be careless. I do have a few stories of office and gaming chair explosions to share in the next section because hey, these things do happen. Having all the facts shouldn’t scare you, but rather, help you become a smarter consumer who can make better decisions about the things you use.

Stories of Office Chair Explosions

Let’s take a closer look at a few reported instances of office chairs exploding.

Fujian, China Woman’s Computer Chair Explodes

The first story is from 2013 and affected a woman in her 20s. As reported on AsiaOne, the woman was based in Fujian, China at the time of the incident. According to her, she was going about her day as usual, sitting on her computer chair, then the chair exploded out of nowhere. 

When that happened, the steel and plastic parts of the chair shattered, embedding themselves into the woman’s body from the force of the explosion. She also had vaginal and intestinal damage as a metal rod from the chair punctured her body. 

She was immediately sent to a hospital, where doctors pulled out parts such as screws and chunks of plastic. The emergency surgery was successful and saved the woman’s life.

Chinese Man in His 60s Has His Chair Explode So High It Reaches the Ceiling

The same AsiaOne article talks about a man in his 60s, also living in China, whose office chair exploded as well. Per the man’s testimony, the force of the explosion was serious enough that the chair collided with the ceiling and bounced off. 

His injuries were centralized to his arms and back, caused by a steel rod that was released out of the chair when it exploded. 

I found it interesting how the AsiaOne article states this: “The majority of cheap air-lift chairs are gas pressured, however, some manufacturers take it one step further by filling it with pressured air to lower the costs. This dangerous step…was likely the cause of the explosion.”

Shandong Province, China Boy, 14, Dies from Chair Explosion

The last story is the one that’s most widely spread, as it resulted in death from an exploding office chair. This Gizmodo article describes the situation. The young boy, who was only 14 years old, was using an office chair that exploded at random. Metal entered the boy’s rectum, leading to internal bleeding that later caused his death.

How to Prevent Office Chair Explosions

The above stories are pretty scary, I’m not denying that. Those few rare instances of office chairs exploding don’t mean you have to ditch your chair and start working on a beanbag or sitting on the floor. You just have to be smart about which chairs you use.

Here are some tips to keep in mind to ensure your chair is safe and secure. 

Only Buy Office Chairs with Good Gas Spring Ratings

If you noticed anything about the harrowing tales of office chair explosions, it was that they all occurred in China. The rules about chair gas spring safety ratings may be a little laxer there.

No matter where you’re buying your office chair, be it an American manufacturer, a Chinese one, or from some other part of the world, don’t go through with the purchase if the chair doesn’t have a good gas spring rating. These safety standards are there for your protection so you don’t have to worry about how secure and stable your chair is. 

Use Your Office Chair Properly

Don’t push too hard on the levers or knobs that adjust your chair, as this could put too much pressure on the gas spring mechanisms, potentially triggering an explosion. 

Make sure you’re also sitting in the chair correctly. Some Herman Miller chairs like the Mirra 2 are made to move with your body’s subtle or more overt movements, but that’s not the case in most office chairs. If you put too much pressure on one part of the chair, you could affect the gas spring.

Another important consideration is your chair’s weight limit. That limit is there for a reason, so respect it. Even if your chair doesn’t explode, it could fall apart if you surpass the weight limit, and that would be painful too! 

Be Willing to Spend a Little More Money on Your Chair

Let me rephrase that quote from the AsiaOne article because it’s especially pertinent. Cheap office chairs that use pressurized gas are more likely to explode. If you find a deal for a chair that seems too good to be true, it’s likely because the manufacturer cut corners to reduce costs. These cheap chairs are most at risk of exploding.

You don’t necessarily have to buy a $1,000 Herman Miller Mirra 2, but you want to spend at least $100 on an office chair to ensure its quality. Read the reviews too, as people leave them to guide your purchasing decisions. 

Don’t Repair or Replace a Damaged Gas Spring Yourself

What if your gas spring malfunctions or breaks altogether? It does happen, but I’d really, really advise against you trying to fix it yourself. I see a lot of blogs suggesting this is okay to do, but do you know what happens when you try to remove anything that’s spring-loaded? The spring can release and go flying, especially considering the spring is so pressurized. You could also accidentally explode the chair.

Rather than try this potentially dangerous fix yourself, contact the manufacturer of your office chair. Perhaps your chair is under warranty. In that case, the costs of repairing the chair may be covered by said warranty. If you don’t have a warranty or if the warranty expired, you might want to consider replacing the chair. 

Conclusion

Office chairs–and gaming chairs too for that matter–can explode, but fortunately, this doesn’t happen often at all. A few reported instances of chairs exploding have been reported, and all have occurred in China. It’s believed that cutting corners by using inexpensive gas springs contributed to these incidents.

Still, it never hurts to take precautions. Remember my tips for preventing office chair explosions and you should be fine! 

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