Occupational Health & Safety

NFPA Releases Standard on Gas Purging

NFPA 56 (PS) prohibits using flammable gas as a cleaning agent to clean out pipes. NFPA announced it in Middletown, Conn., where a February 2010 explosion involving a "gas blow" killed six workers at the Kleen Energy Power Plant.

Answering a recommendation from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, the National Fire Protection Association has released NFPA 56 (PS), Standard for Fire and Explosion Prevention During Cleaning and Purging of Flammable Gas Piping Systems, 2012 Edition, which prohibits using a flammable gas as a cleaning agent to clean out pipes, and it was announced at a press conference at Middletown City Hall in Middletown, Conn. -- the site of the Kleen Energy blast caused by such "gas purging." In attendance were U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro and Joe Courtney, CSB Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso, and Middletown Mayor Sebastian N. Giuliano.

"This is an example of the critical role NFPA plays in providing codes and standards for use by government and other entities throughout the world," said NFPA President James M. Shannon. "Our ability to bring together the right people at the right time and to facilitate a consensus process in very short order resulted in a standard that will save lives and prevent a tragedy like the one in Connecticut from happening in the future."

The Feb. 7, 2010, explosion occurred as the Kleen Energy Power Plant in Middletown was nearly completed. It killed six workers and injured nearly 50 others. CSB said highly pressurized natural gas was used to clean debris from the piping and was then discharged without controls into the atmosphere, causing the explosion.

NFPA created a new technical committee to develop a standard that would fulfill one of CSB's recommendations following the explosion. NFPA 56 addresses the cleaning practice (also known as "gas blows") and also a range of gas process activities, such as pipe cleaning, repair, replacement, and removal procedures conducted at power plants and other applications.

"Nineteen months ago, the Middletown community was witness to an awful tragedy at the Kleen Energy plant, when a then-routine gas blow procedure went terribly wrong. The investigation into what happened that day resulted in this new worker protection standard -- the first of its kind to address this dangerous procedure. I thank the NFPA and CSB for steadfastly moving to develop this critical response which will help to save lives across the country. We owe it to the men who perished that terrible day to make the tragedy in Middletown the very last of its kind," said DeLauro.

For more information about the standard, visit www.nfpa.org/56.

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