Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Inadequate Training May Have Contributed to Allentown, Pennsylvania, Gas Explosion

An early January gas explosion in Allentown, Pennsylvania, brings to mind last year's fatal gas explosion that leveled an entire block and killed five, including two children. It is also a reminder of a 2006 gas explosion that leveled four homes and damaged four more and a 2011 Philadelphia gas explosion that killed a worker and injured six. Inadequate training of workers was considered a contributing cause in at least two of these Pennsylvania explosions.

Authorities are looking into whether last week's blast was also caused by inadequate training. When the gas explosion occurred, Great Western Services workers were installing pipes. There was a crack in the gas line between the meter and the house, which was technically beyond UGI's (the company in question) responsibility.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission will investigate the training the workers received and whether they were properly tested for drugs and alcohol. UGI was held responsible in the 2006 blast for failing to properly train contractors and not having a proper screening program.

Thankfully, last week's blast only caused minor injuries to two workers and two residents. Thirty to 60 people are killed or seriously injured every year due to gas pipeline explosions. The principal cause of these accidents is excavation. Many individuals and companies will excavate without first checking for gas lines, potentially causing serious injury. Gas explosions can also be caused by ice buildup, gas line corrosion, defective equipment and poor construction. Gas companies, companies that manufacture defective pipes or equipment, construction companies and others whose negligence can be attributed to pipeline explosions may be held responsible for injuries caused by the explosions.

Congress has taken multiple steps to improve pipeline safety, including enacting the Pipeline Safety Act of 2002, which required on-site inspections, and approving pipeline safety standards in 2006. However, gas explosions like the explosion in Allentown show that more has to be done to keep people safe and negligent companies must be held responsible if their actions cause injuries.

Source: The Morning Call, "State to Check Gas Workers' Training," Peter Hall, Jan. 11, 2012.

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