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CSB commends Connecticut for prohibiting natural gas blows, calls on states to take similar action (10/21)

U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso today called for a ban on the practice of cleaning out debris from gas piping using pressurized natural gas. In a video safety message released today, Dr. Moure-Eraso called the practice, known in the industry as a gas blow, to be “inherently unsafe activity.” The CSB’s safety message follows an investigation into the February 7, 2010, explosion at the Kleen Energy power plant in Middletown, Connecticut that killed six workers.

At a CSB public meeting on June 28, 2010, in Middletown, Connecticut, the board issued 18 urgent recommendations, including one to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) calling for federal regulations that would prohibit the release of flammable gas to the atmosphere for the purpose of cleaning fuel gas piping. The Board also issued similar recommendations to two major voluntary standards organizations - the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) - to amend their respective codes and standards to require the use of inherently safer methods during the cleaning of fuel gas piping.

Three months after the CSB’s public meeting, Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell issued an executive order banning the use of natural gas blows during power plant construction in the state. In the video safety message, Chairperson Moure-Eraso commends Governor Rell for this action, saying, “The governor’s decisive action banning the use of natural gas blows should be followed by other states and the federal government, urgently. Lives can be saved.”

In addition to this safety message commending Connecticut, the CSB is issuing letters to the other 49 states warning of the hazards associated with gas blows and urging state officials to enact any necessary changes to their respective state regulations and codes to prohibit gas blows at power plants and other similar facilities. The CSB is currently in production of a full-length safety video on the hazards of fuel gas blows and purging gas piping indoors; this video is scheduled for release by the end of the year.

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating chemical accidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems

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