New safety regulations considered after North Carolina plant explosion

A North Carolina work accident that killed four workers and injured 70 in a natural gas explosion could result in banning the use of natural gas to clean industrial piping, WRAL reported.

A federal safety board is expected to vote on the ban this week in the wake of the deadly North Carolina incident and another in Connecticut, which killed six workers and injured 20 other employees. The Connecticut incident happened in February at the Kleen Energy Systems power plant. The North Carolina accident happened at the ConAgra Slim Jim Factory in Garner in June 2009. Officials pin the blame for both explosions on the use of natural gas as workers installed and commissioned new piping.

The Chemical Safety Board is set to urge the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to pass new regulations that would prohibit the use of natural gas under high pressure for pipe cleaning. It would also ban the venting or purging of natural gas indoors, which was determined to be responsible for causing the North Carolina blast.

In the Connecticut accident, nearly 2 million cubic feet of natural gas — enough to provide 25 years of heating and cooking gas to an average home — were released into the atmosphere. The gas met an ignition source at the plant and exploded. In the North Carolina incident, significant amounts of gas had been purged indoors during the startup of a new water heater at the plant, which led to the explosion.

The safety board is also considering mandates that would require companies to involve workers and contractors in developing safe procedures and training for employees handling natural gas.

If you are injured in a work accident, contact the North Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys at the Law Offices of Lee & Smith today for a free and confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call 800-887-1965.

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