I was forwarded this email at work yesterday from our overall field supervisor in Lansing:
Thanks again for the conversation this morning, and I appreciate the offer to forward my information inquires to others. A simple introduction to the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB): The CSB is an independent, non-regulatory federal agency that was created by Congress to investigate the root-causes of industrial accidents. We are modeled after the NTSB which investigates airplane accidents, only we look at industrial accidents where a chemical release has occurred. The goal of the CSB is to prevent accidents from happening again by publishing our findings both in reports and safety videos. Please look at our website to get more information about us and to see what other accidents we are investigating. www.csb.gov
In February there was an accident in CT that occurred when workers used natural gas, at a high pressure of approximately 650 pounds per square inch and constant supply from the main pipeline, to clean a new pipe by literally blowing the debris out an open end. The workers on site called the practice a “gas blow.” In this case, the gas found an ignition source, and a blast resulted that killed 6 men and the injured over 20 others. (The final ten minutes before the blast, initial data shows the release of approximately 400,000 standard cubic feet of gas.) We’ve heard from people that this is a fairly common practice in the power plant industry, but we have also heard of chemical plants, paper plants, and utility companies using the practice as well. (Sometimes people use a non-flammable gas, but not always.)
I am wondering if this is a practice anyone you know has ever heard of and if so, are there any records of these types of activities (whether regulatory oversight, permitting, inspections, accident reports etc.)? As I mentioned, I am trying to document how prevalent the practice is and find information about any other accidents related to this type of activity. My contact information is below and I’d be happy to talk on the phone or receive an email. Even if people haven’t heard about the practice, that would still be useful for me to hear.
Thank you for your time,
Mary Beth Mulcahy
Mary Beth Mulcahy, Ph.D.
U.S. Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board