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Jan 14, 2011

CSB Commends West Virginia Action on CSB Recommendation that Propane Technicians be Trained and Licensed; Action Follows Tragic Explosion at Convenience Store

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         Washington DC, January 12, 2011 – CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso today commended West Virginia for its effective response to a CSB recommendation that propane technicians in the state be trained, certified, and licensed. 
 
         The Board issued the recommendation to the governor and legislature following the CSB investigation of a propane explosion at the Little General Store in Ghent, West Virginia on January 30, 2007.  The explosion killed four people and injured five others seriously. The CSB found that a junior propane service technician was preparing to transfer propane, unsupervised, from an old to a new tank located next to an outside wall of the store. The technician removed a safety plug from a malfunctioning liquid withdrawal valve, causing an uncontrollable release of propane. Propane entered the store through the rest room ventilation system.  The technician had only 45 days of limited on-the-job training with his supervisor.
 
         Dr. Moure-Eraso said, “The Board has voted to designate West Virginia’s response as ‘Closed-Acceptable Action,’ meaning that the state’s action fully meets the intent of our recommendation. By taking this action, the state assures that anyone working with liquefied petroleum gas systems in the state – from installation to maintenance – will be fully qualified, and that means lives will be saved and we will greatly reduce the risk of a recurrence of the Ghent tragedy.”
 
         The CSB recommendation urged the state to  “Require training and qualification of individuals who operate bulk propane plants, dispense and deliver propane, install and service propane systems, and install propane appliances.” The CSB recommended this training be equivalent to the Certified Employee Training program (CETP) developed by the propane industry. The CSB investigation found many employers in the industry use CETP to train and certify employees on a number of topics including safe work practices during delivery and installation of propane tanks for homes, businesses, and bulk shipping. The bill approved by the West Virginia legislature requires completion of CETP for anyone working with liquefied petroleum gas systems in the state. 
 
         The requirements of the bill went into effect on July 1, 2009, and the State Fire Marshal’s office reported to the CSB that the code was updated in June 2010 to implement the legislative mandate requiring certification and licensing. 
 
         Dr. Moure said, “Propane is highly flammable and potentially hazardous. To ensure public safety, propane must be handled only by qualified and experienced technicians. I compliment all those in West Virginia who worked to accomplish passage of the legislation.”

         The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial 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.
 
The Board does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. Visit our website, www.csb.gov.
 
            For more information, contact CSB public affairs specialist Hillary Cohen at 202-261-3601.

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