West Virginia Takes Action on CSB Recommendation for Propane Technicians to be Trained, Licensed

On Jan. 12, CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso commended West Virginia for its effective response to a CSB recommendation that propane technicians in the state be trained, certified and licensed.

CSB issued the recommendation to the governor and legislature following its investigation of a propane explosion at the Little General Store in Ghent, W.Va., on Jan. 30, 2007. The explosion killed four people and injured five others seriously. 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, which entered the store through the restroom ventilation system. The technician only had 45 days of limited on-the-job training with his supervisor.

“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,” said Moure-Eraso. “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.” 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.

“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,” added Moure-Eraso.

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