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Cleaning Fuel Pipe Systems

Explosions Caused by Using Natural Gas to Clear the Pipes

The dangers of cleaning fuel gas piping systems with natural gas is a growing concern among industrial workers and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, as there have already been devastating tragedies linked to it. On February 7, 2010, an explosion occurred at the Kleen Energy site in Connecticut that was caused by using natural gas to clean a power plant that was under construction at the time. Reports say that this incident resulted in at least 50 injuries and the death of 6 people. To clean the fuel gas piping system, workers were using a method called a "gas blow," which is when they use extreme pressure (650 pounds per square inch gauge) to push natural gas through the pipes.

Over a period of 4 hours, the workers conducted 15 different gas blows through the pipes, causing both gas and debris to be released into the atmosphere. OSHA investigators note that in this incident, the employers did not have a safety meeting prior to the cleaning project. During such a meeting, they would have addressed both the hazards of the gas blows, as well as reviewed the safety procedures relating to the cleaning process.

The explosion occurred during the cleaning when the gas was caught in a congested area of the pipe; this led to an adverse effect of the dispersion of the natural gas. The pipes that were being cleaned were located between a heat recovery generator; this area was overcrowded with equipment, making the area unsafe and a hazard. At the time of the explosion, there were an estimated 150 employees on site, nearly one third of them suffered from the explosion.

Following the incident, OSHA fined Kleen Energy $16.5 million for the deadly explosion.

Employer Responsibility

OSHA's fines are linked to citations and penalties that the employers made that deprived the workers of a safe environment. As the owner of a company, it is their responsibility to ensure that every measure is taken to ensure the safety and health of the employees on site, as well as those in the surrounding communities. According to the United States Chemical Safety Board, there are a number of dangers associated with the use of natural gas for fuel pipe cleaning, primarily due to it being highly flammable. As OSHA seeks to implement safe workplaces, they highly encourage industrial sites to use non-flammable and non-explosive options when cleaning fuel pipe systems.

OSHA's general standards for a employers include, but are not limited to:

  • Create a safe work environment free of hazards following all safety and healthy requirements
  • Regularly check workplace conditions
  • Equip employees with proper equipment and safety tools
  • Maintain all equipment and tools / replace as needed
  • Warn workers of all hazards on site
  • Train workers in health and safety procedures, frequent review of these standards
  • Notify OSHA within 8 hours of accident including three or more injured workers or a fatality

Hiring a Plant Explosion Lawyer

At Arnold & Itkin LLP, we have been able to help countless victims of wrongful injury. Our legal team recovered billions of dollars in verdicts and settlements on behalf of our clients. We are relentless in our pursuit of justice, and if you have suffered on the job, we can seek to prove the fault of those responsible for your injury.

Client's portion of total recovery may be subject to Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement claims, Medicare/Medicaid liens or other third-party claims or liens. These verdicts and settlements are intended to be representative of cases handled by Arnold & Itkin, LLP. These listings are not a guarantee or prediction of the outcome of any other claims.

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