I am writing today to inform you of the hazards associated with the practice of cleaning fuel gas piping systems using natural gas. On February 7, 2010, a devastating explosion at the Kleen Energy power plant in Middletown, Connecticut took a massive human toll, killing six workers and injuring another fifty. This explosion was triggered by the ignition of pressurized natural gas that was being used to clear newly constructed fuel pipes. After a comprehensive inspection of the incident, OSHA recently issued citations with proposed penalties totaling more than $16.5 million. This tragedy could have been easily avoided by the exercise of common sense, adherence to OSHA standards and industry-accepted safety procedures, and following internal safety rules.
As an employer, you are responsible for eliminating or controlling hazards that may kill or injure your employees in these facilities. It is the responsibility of all employers, particularly those operating in high hazard industries, to ensure the safety and health of their employees at the worksite. None of the major employers at the Kleen Energy site on February 7, 2010, took appropriate action to eliminate or reduce hazards associated with fuel system gas blows, despite knowing of the potential fire and explosion hazards associated with such operations. The employers had reviewed and approved safety procedures for conducting these operations. OSHA’s investigation, however, determined that many of these precautions were not followed.