Washington DC, October 20, 2010 – CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso today commended the governor and legislature of West Virginia for their positive response to a CSB recommendation that propane technicians in the state be trained, certified, and licensed.
The Board issued the recommendation following an investigation of a propane explosion at the Little General Store in Ghent, West Virginia, that took place on January 30, 2007. The explosion killed four and seriously injured five others. The CSB found that a junior propane service technician was preparing to transfer propane, unsupervised, from a previous supplier's tank located next to an outside wall of the store to a new supplier's tank located 10 feet from the building. The investigation determined the technician fully removed a safety plug from a malfunctioning liquid withdrawal valve, which caused an uncontrollable release of propane and prevented the technician from resealing the open valve. Propane entered the store through the nearby ventilation system. The technician had only 45 days of limited on-the-job training with his supervisor.
Dr. Moure-Eraso said, “The Board recently voted to designate West Virginia’s response as "Closed-Acceptable Action," meaning the state’s action fully meets the intent of those recommendations. By taking this action, the state assures that anyone working with liquefied petroleum gas systems in West Virginia – from installation to maintenance – is to be fully qualified; and that means lives will not be lost due to a similar incident such as the Ghent tragedy.”
The CSB recommended that West Virginia “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 shipments of propane. 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 to implement the legislative mandate requiring certification and licensing.
Dr. Moure-Eraso 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 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
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