Safety Video Shows Gas Release Hazards

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 @ 04:03 PM gHale

A new safety video depicting what went wrong at two major accidents caused by the intentional release of flammable fuel gas near work areas is available.

The two disasters, one the June 9, 2009, explosion at the ConAgra Slim Jim plant near Garner, NC, that killed four workers and injured 67 others, and the February 7, 2010, explosion at the Kleen Energy natural gas powered electric generating plant under construction in Middletown, CT, that killed six workers and injured at least 50 others. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released the video one year after the Kleen Energy explosion.

The two incidents involved the intentional release of flammable natural gas into work areas, putting workers and nearby communities at risk of fires and explosions. At the Kleen Energy facility, workers were conducting a “gas blow,” a procedure that forced natural gas at high volume and pressure through newly-installed piping to remove debris. The gas vented to the atmosphere, where it accumulated, came in contact with an ignition source and exploded. At the ConAgra facility workers were purging a pipe feeding gas to an industrial heater. During the purging operation, gas flowed through the pipe and exited through an open valve inside the utility room which housed the water heater. Flammable gas accumulated inside the building and eventually found an ignition source.

Entitled “Deadly Practices,” the video includes animations that show the hazards of releasing gas into areas where it can accumulate, ignite, and kill or injure workers or members of the public.

“The deadly accidents at Kleen Energy and ConAgra were entirely preventable,” said CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso during the video. “At the Chemical Safety Board, it is our hope that standards will be put in place that will require these safer practices, which we believe will save lives.”

As a result of the CSB’s investigation the board released urgent recommendations aimed at preventing future tragedies. The CSB recommended OSHA promulgate regulations that address fuel gas safety for construction and general industry.

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