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Gas Explosions

Gas Explosions

A gas explosion is the result of a gas leak that has combined with an ignition source. Many gas vapors are heavier than air resulting in gases pooling low to the ground instead of dispersing into the atmosphere. Equipment or pipes, buildings or offshore facilities, enclosed or open spaces all can harbor a gas explosion.

Gas explosions can cause devastating, catastrophic, and, oftentimes, fatal thermal burn injuries to anyone in the vicinity. They often cause flash burns because of their high intensity and brief duration but can also cause flame burns when the intense heat ignites clothing or nearby materials. Gas explosion often occur in industrial or agricultural settings, but because many people use natural and propane gas in and around the home, the risk of burn injury in a domestic situation is high as well.

Workplace Causes

Gas explosions occur most frequently in workplace environments, particularly industrial or agricultural settings. They are often the result of code violations or violations of standards or safe practices.

Code violations: The Occupational Safety and Health Act, administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), was enacted to protect workers by assuring safe and healthful working conditions. To accomplish this goal, OSHA requires that employers abide by certain safety and health standards. Additionally, the General Duty Clause—section 5—requires each employer to provide a workplace “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”

Exact regulations can vary state-by-state because OSHA permits states to create their own safety requirements provided they are at least as effective as the federal requirements. Twenty-five states, as well as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have adopted their own standards and enforcement policies which have been approved by OSHA. While these standards have slight variations, they are largely identical to the federal standards.

Violations of standards or safe practices: OSHA’s Directorate of Technical Support (DTS) periodically issues Safety and Health Information Bulletins (SHIBs) which detail procedures and practices that can improve safety and health in the workplace. SHIBs are advisory in nature and do not create new standards or regulations that companies are obligated to follow. Despite their informality, they are selected from recognized scientific, industrial hygiene, labor, industry, engineering, and/or medical sources and are a great resource to help promote workplace safety. Check out OSHA’s SHIB directory to find the best safety practices for your profession.

Workers Compensation

Workers compensation is a topic that naturally arises when discussing gas explosions because of the high percentage of gas explosions that occur at the workplace. Workers compensation acts as a type of insurance that covers employees—and in some cases their families—by providing monetary awards if the employee is injured or disabled while on the job.

Workers compensation laws are controlled at the state level. For federal employees, workers compensation is administered by the U.S. Department of Labor. The complexities of these processes are explored further in the Workers Compensation section.

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Residential Gas Explosions

While most gas explosions occur in workplace settings, homes are not immune to the hazards. Accidents in the home are typically the result of minimal to nonexistent public information regarding the handling of gas by consumers or defective products. The two biggest sources of gas explosions in the home are natural gas and gas grills.

Natural gas: When natural gas is harvested, it is comprised primarily of methane but also includes propane, butane, and ethane. Propane is separated from the other gases at gas processing facilities and sold as a standalone product. Either gas can be used as a source of energy for cooktops, furnaces, generators, water heaters and more. While there are certainly differences between propane and natural gas, when it comes to gas explosions, both pose similar risks. Similar safety precautions can be used with either gas to avoid explosions.

Use only in approved appliances, Store below 120 ºF,If a leak is suspected:

  • Put out all open flames,
  • Avoid low areas (such as the basement)—natural gas is heavier than air and the vapors converge in low areas,
  • Call your gas company or emergency number AFTER you have left the vicinity of the suspected leak, AND
  • Never use an open flame to test for gas leaks.

Gas grills: It’s estimated that outside cooking grills cause over 6,000 fires and $35 million in property loss annually. Most gas grill explosions are caused by leaks, blocked tubes, and overfilled tanks. Below is a list of gas grill safety recommendations.

  • Check all connections for leaks before use,
  • A leak can be detected be spraying soapy water at the connections—if bubbles surface, there is a leak; shut the tank value off and tighten connections,
  • Only open the valve a quarter to one-half turn before lighting,
  • Turn off the valve of a fuel source when it is not in use,
  • Never start a gas grill with the lid of the grill closed—the propane or natural gas may accumulate inside, creating conditions for an explosion,
  • Periodically clean gas tubes to prevent blocks from forming,
  • Store propane tanks in a well-ventilated area away from the house or habitable structures and flame (including any appliances with pilot lights),
  • Keep a fire extinguisher located nearby, AND
  • Follow all manufacturers’ instructions.

Third Party Negligence

Regardless of where a gas explosion occurs, third parties may bear responsibility for the incident. For example, a gas explosion anywhere along a gas line has the potential of subjecting the gas company to liability if they negligently maintained the gas line. In other cases, a company may be liable for failing to odorize gas before distributing it to the public (odor must be added to natural and propane gas as a safety precaution to warn people that gas is present). Lastly, defective products that lead to gas explosions may subject product manufactures to liability. Negligence is a complex issue that is discussed more fully in the Who Is Responsible section.

Sources

American Burn Association

Legal Information Institute

U.S. Department of Labor

U.S. Legal

Our Attorneys

injury lawyer kirk morgan

Kirk Morgan

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Billy Walker

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Will Walker

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Chuck Slaughter

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Types of Burns

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Degrees of Burns

First , second , and third degree burns

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Burn Injuries

There are many types of burn injuries

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Scald Burn Injury

Caused when very hot liquids come into contact with skin

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Electrical Burns

Electricity can burn the skin and is capable of causing internal damage

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Chemical Burns

Caused when a strong acid or base comes into direct contact with skin

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Car/Boating Accidents

Thermal burns can occur if the car catches fire or explodes

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Gas Explosions

Caused when a gas leak combines with an ignition source

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Worker’s Compensation

If you've been burned on the job, you may need legal guidance

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E-Cigarette Burns

Can be caused by defective batteries or overheated vapor

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