Construction work is filled with hazards that are both seen and unseen. But even with the hazards that are unseen, there are precautions that can be taken to prevent a tragedy. A natural gas explosion on a construction site is something that can be avoided by taking the proper precautions and notifying the right organizations. A quick call to the local utility company before beginning a construction site excavation project can prevent a gas explosion and save lives.
A Close Call Shows The Power Of Gas Explosions
When it comes to job site safety, nothing is more important than protecting workers and the public. There are many examples of how a lapse in job site safety protocol can lead to a dangerous gas explosion, but one example from Dallas, Texas allows us to look at what can happen without having to grieve for any lost lives.
In March 2017, a construction crew was working on a road expansion project in downtown Dallas when a gas line was ruptured and an explosion followed. The immediate effect of the explosion was some damage to a nearby building and two people who received minor injuries. Once the police arrived, they immediately evacuated workers from the surrounding building and shut down many downtown streets.
The quick actions of the utility company and police helped to save lives in this situation. However, the impact the explosion left on workers in the area will be around for a long time. People working in the adjacent buildings reported hearing a loud blast and seeing a tower of flames shooting out of the street. In this instance, it was lucky that no one needed to be hospitalized. But this is a good example of how unexpected a gas explosion can be when work crews are not careful.
Why Is Gas Dangerous On Construction Sites?
A construction site excavation project can be dangerous because gas lines can be as small as one inch in diameter, but they still pack a deadly punch. Construction sites tend to have a lot of workers packed around the areas being excavated, which can lead to a lot of injured people when a blast occurs.
Another significant problem with ruptured gas lines on construction sites is that gas not only escapes quickly from a ruptured pipe creating a breathing health hazard, but a ruptured line that is exposed to a spark or open flame could create a tremendous explosion. There is no formula for calculating how much gas will ignite in a ruptured line. This means anyone in the path of that line could be in danger of potential explosions. The unstable and random nature of ruptured gas lines makes this type of situation very dangerous.
Taking Measures To Prevent Explosions
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has created a series of guidelines that construction companies can use to prevent possible gas explosions on work sites. Those guidelines include:
- Creating a detailed map of all excavations that will take place in any project to help determine the possible location of gas lines.
- Contact the party responsible for any underground gas lines in the area of the work site to review the excavation map and determine if there are any gas lines in the area.
- If the responsible party does not respond within 24 hours to the request to review the excavation plan, then the construction company should only proceed with the excavation plans if it has the proper equipment for detecting gas lines. Any work done before the responsible utility company reviews the excavation plans should be done very slowly.
- Prior to starting on each excavation site, the company should use every means possible to identify and locate any buried gas lines.
- During the excavation process, every precaution should be taken to protect the excavated area, the surrounding buildings, all of the workers on site, and any civilians who might be in the area.
Follow Good Guidelines When It Comes to Excavating
It is common for utility companies to have signs posted so that construction companies can call when it comes to locating gas lines prior to excavation. Every construction company should follow good guidelines when it comes to excavation procedures and take the time to make sure that the gas lines in an area are identified. Any failure to take buried gas lines in an excavation project seriously could have deadly consequences.