Connecticut Law May Reduce Number of Explosions in Power Plants
State legislatures ban the practice of "gas blows" in natural gas fueled power plants.
May 13, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/ -- In February of 2010, six workers were killed when a "gas blow" went horribly wrong at Kleen Energy. The site was constructing a natural gas power plant when it conducted the gas blow, which is an inherently dangerous cleaning procedure using high pressured explosive gas to clean an electric company's gas piping. The natural gas pushes out dirt, metal shards and other debris that can build up within the pipes.
In this instance, the gas blow was completed with almost 400,000 cubic feet of natural gas mixed with air. This explosive combination was released into the small tubes and led to an explosion of such enormous proportions it could fill an entire basketball arena.
A single, small error or a spark from a metal shard being pushed out of the piping during a gas blow can be devastating. This makes determining the actual cause of an accident very difficult. Investigators have yet to find the catalyst for Kleen Energy explosion, but noted it occurred when the gas accumulated after being released from the piping. Although the gas was released in an outdoor area, congestion of equipment and various structures caused it to build up. The ignition source has yet to be determined, but the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, states welders and running heaters near the area may have been contributing factors.
Approximately 50 people were injured in addition to the six fatalities by the explosion which leveled most of the complex and was felt miles beyond the blast site. Unfortunately, this incident is one of a long history of similar explosions, including a gas blow explosion in 2003 in California and another in Ohio in 2001.
Even with a history of explosions clearly connected to the practice of gas blows, many natural gas power stations continue to use this form of pipe cleaning. Even more concerning is the fact that industry workers often conduct the cleaning without technical guidelines.
In addition to a lack of defined procedure, a growing number of natural gas fueled power plants are being built throughout the United States. Natural gas provides a cleaner alternative to coal and is generally more plentiful. These factors could lead to an increase in serious injuries for industry workers.
Details of State Law
In response to these horrific accidents, the National Fire Protection Association, or NFPA, a national safety group that prohibits the use of natural gas to clean pipes, implemented a new standard banning gas blows. Unfortunately, the standard was not legally binding and industrial plants and other facilities were not required to follow it. Instead, the standard was intended to provide state legislatures and OSHA with encouragement to issue official regulations against the dangerous practice.
NFPA took the need for regulating gas blows very seriously and completed the standard within 24 weeks. Generally, the standard process takes a minimum of 104 weeks and often as much as 141 weeks to develop and amend.
Officials in Connecticut agreed with the standard, and the State of Connecticut passed Bill No. 5802 shortly after issuance of NFPSA's regulation. The state law bans the use of flammable gases to conduct gas blows. Congressional members are heralding the piece of legislation as a "worker protection standard."
The ban of gas blowing is predicted to spread. In fact, a director for OSHA states a similar, federal provision is "under consideration."
Liability in Employee Pipeline Injuries
It is now illegal in Connecticut to conduct a gas blow to clean piping in a natural gas fueled power plant. If a company violates this law, it may be found in violation of its duty to provide a safe working environment for all employees. As a result, a violating company will likely be held liable for any injuries that result from a gas blow.
All involved in the ban note that cleaning the piping is necessary, since the piping leads directly to a turbine which could easily be damaged by debris that may build up within the piping. However, liability may be further supported by the fact that there are many safe alternatives to gas blows. One option involves the same process but uses air or nitrogen, two gases which are not explosive. Another alternative uses forcing a cleaning object through the gas piping under air pressure. Either alternative would clean the pipes without the high risk of explosion.
Those that are injured as the result of a gas blow may be able to receive compensation to cover medical and rehabilitative expenses as well as pain and suffering. If your or a loved one experiences such an injury, it is important to seek the counsel of an experienced Connecticut catastrophic injury lawyer to ensure all your legal rights and remedies are protected.
Article provided by Cousins, Desrosiers, and Morizio, PC
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