OSHA Advises Contractors about Underground Gas Line Hazards

A new Safety and Health Information Bulletin issued by OSHA advises contractors on hazards associated with striking underground gas lines during excavation work.

"This bulletin reminds workers and employers of ways to avoid hazards resulting from accidental damage to underground utility installations during excavation work," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "Using this valuable information will help ensure the safety and health of workers involved in this oftentimes dangerous work."

The advisory bulletin informs workers and employees about OSHA's requirements intended to prevent damage to underground utility installations during excavation work. The bulletin also recommends informing the pipeline operator immediately if the excavator causes damage to a pipeline and to call 911 or other emergency numbers if the damage results in a release of natural gas or other hazardous substances.

The bulletin details an incident in 1998 where a cable construction company installation crew in St. Cloud, Minn., struck and ruptured an underground gas pipeline, resulting in a natural gas leak. After the rupture, an explosion occurred, causing four fatalities and several other injuries.

OSHA's trenching and excavation standard establishes specific excavation requirements designed to protect workers and prevent accidental damage to underground utility installations. The bulletin addresses an employers' responsibility to establish a detailed work plan and train employees prior to excavations on the proper procedures for determining the locations of underground utilities. Workers should coordinate with utility companies to establish locations of underground installations and take necessary precautions to prevent damaging them.

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