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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation P-96-020
Details
Synopsis: ABOUT 6:45 P.M. ON 6/9/94, A 2-INCH-DIAMETER STEEL GAS SERVICE LINE THAT HAD BEEN EXPOSED DURING EXCAVATION SEPARATED AT A COMPRESSION COUPLING ABOUT 5 FEET FROM THE NORTH WALL OF JOHN T. GROSS TOWERS, AN EIGHT-STORY RETIREMENT HOME OPERATED BY THE ALLENTOWN HOUSING AUTHORITY AT ALLENTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA. THE FAILED UGI UTILITIES, INC,. (UGI) SERVICE LINE RELEASED NATAURAL GAS AT 55 PSIG PRESSURE, & THE ESCAPING GAS FLOWED UNDERGROUND TO GROSS TOWERS. THE GAS PASSED THROUGH OPENINGS IN THE BUILDING FOUNDATION, ENTERED THE MECHANICAL ROOM THROUGH FLOOR VENTS, & MIGRATED TO OTHER BUILDING FLOORS.
Recommendation: THE NTSB RECOMMENDS THAT THE NATIONAL UTILITY CONTRACTORS ASSOCIATION: INFORM ITS MEMBERS ABOUT THE 1994 ALLENTOWN ACCIDENT & ENCOURAGE THEM TO TRAIN THEIR EXCAVATION EMPLOYEES IN: (A) NOTIFYING LOCAL EMERGENCY-RESPONSE AGENCIES OF ANY EMERGENCY CONDITIONS IMMEDIATELY; (B) HELPING MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC WHO ARE IN THE IMMEDIATE VICINITY OF AN EMERGENCY, INCLUDING EVACUATING ANYONE WHO IS IN DANGER; (C) NOTIFYING THE BURIED-FACILITY OWNER OF ANY CHANGES IN THE WORK PLAN: (D) NOTIFYING THE BURIED-FACILITY OWNER OF ANY DAMAGE TO OR LACK OF SUPPORT FOR HIS FACILITY PROMPTLY & RELYING ON THE BURIED-FACILITY OPERATOR TO DECIDE WHETEHR CORRECTIVE ACTION IS NEEDED.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Acceptable Action
Mode: Pipeline
Location: Allentown, PA, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA94MP003
Accident Reports:
UGI Utilities, Inc., Natural Gas Distribution Pipeline Explosion and Fire
Report #: PAR-96-01
Accident Date: 6/9/1994
Issue Date: 3/6/1996
Date Closed: 5/28/2002
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: National Utility Contractors Association (Closed - Acceptable Action)
Keyword(s):

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: National Utility Contractors Association
Date: 5/28/2002
Response: NUCA reports that it agrees with the Safety Board's position that contractors should not be the party responsible for determining what is and is not a hazardous situation, and that it brought this argument to the Common Ground Alliance (CGA). The Board notes that at the request of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of Pipeline Safety, the CGA's Best Practices Committee, on which NUCA is represented, addressed this recommendation. NUCA reports that it believes that the CGA's revised best practice, stated below, is in the best interest of contractors and public safety: If the damage results in the escape of any flammable, toxic, or corrosive gas or liquid or endangers life, health, or property, the excavator responsible immediately notifies 911 and the facility owner/operator. NUCA supports this practice as well as the existing best practices contained in the Common Ground Study. Further, NUCA has advised the Safety Board that it regularly distributes the Common Ground Study, has taken action to inform its members about CGA activity, and actively promotes the implementation of CGA best practices in members' operations. Accordingly, Safety Recommendation P-96-20 is classified "Closed-Acceptable Action."

From: National Utility Contractors Association
To: NTSB
Date: 3/14/2002
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 03/29/2002 5:59:43 PM MC# 2020345 This recommendation was issued following a natural gas pipeline incident in Allentown, Pa., which resulted in one fatality, 66 injuries, and more than $5 million in property damage. NTSB concluded that the incident was the result of many factors, including: 1) a backhoe operator who failed to shore up excavation or report the lack of pipe support and damage to the utility company; 2) the failure of the excavator to promptly call "911" and notify the occupants of the building to evacuate; and 3) the lack of training afforded to the excavation crewmembers in how to handle an emergency. The Common Ground Study addressed the issue of 91l-notification. In the 1999 study, the best practice regarding emergency notification indicated that "if the protective coating of an electrical line is penetrated or gases or liquids are escaping from a broken line which endangers life, health or property, the excavator immediately contacts local emergency personnel or calls '911' to report the damage location." The U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) endorsed this best practice. NTSB responded that the language did not go far enough because it left the job of determining a hazard to the excavator. NTSB said contractors should call 911 "in the event of damage to buried utilities if the damage results in the escape of any flammable, toxic, or corrosive gas or liquid or endangers life, health, or property." At the request of DOT, the CGA Best Practices Committee is addressing several NTSB recommendations, including the one regarding 9 11 -notification by excavators when facilities are damaged. In a letter to DOT dated July l8, 2000, NTSB made several arguments on the issue. The following points were made in that letter: "In the view of the Safety Board, the utility owner and 911 or other appropriate emergency notification number should be called any time a hazardous substance is released from a pipeline through construction damage, regardless of whether those on the scene perceive an immediate danger to public safety. Excavators are not all knowledgeable about what constitutes a hazardous situation. For example, they may not be familiar with the hazards of gas migrating underground, or they may not realize that a pulled pipeline could be broken in more than one place. Emergency responders can usually arrive at the scene quickly and are often trained and equipped to assess such hazards and take appropriate safety measures." NTSB issued the following recommendation to OPS: "take the lead in promulgating an industry 'best practice' that advises excavators to notify the pipeline operator immediately if their work damages a pipeline and to call 911 or other local emergency response number immediately if the damage results in a release of natural gas or other hazardous substance or potentially endangers life, health, or property (P-00-l)." NUCA agrees with NTSB's position. Contractors should not be the party responsible for determining what is and is not a hazardous situation, and we brought this argument to the CGA. Per OPS's request, the CGA's Best Practices Committee addressed this recommendation. NUCA is represented on this committee, and we believe that the revised CGA best practice is in the best interest of contractors and public safety. The CGA Board of Directors approved the following Best Practices Committee recommended change: "If the damage results in the escape of any flammable, toxic, or corrosive gas or liquid or endangers life, health, or property, the excavator responsible immediately notifies 911 and the facility owner/operator. " NUCA supports this revised CGA best practice, as well as the existing best practices contained in the Common Ground Study. NUCA regularly distributes the study, and we inform our members about CGA activity and actively promote the implementation of CGA best practices in our members' operations. Therefore, we respectfully request that NTSB classify Safety Recommendation P-96-20 as "Closed, Acceptable Action."

From: NTSB
To: National Utility Contractors Association
Date: 4/9/2001
Response: To date, there has been no response from NUCA on the action taken or planned for the implementation of Safety Recommendation P-96-20.