Not doing a gas test before welding is criminal negligence

Gas Detectors

I wonder why many plant owners & managers cannot do some simple things to prevent accidents and save innocent workers’ lives?  Shockingly, in many of the recent accidents, that have been reported as “welding accidents”, the root cause is not doing a “gas test” before starting the job.  As all of you, who are familiar with the oil & gas, petrochemical and related industries know, it is essential to do a “gas test” (in other words, use a gas monitor to check the presence of explosive or flammable gases) before allowing “hot work” in any area in the plant.  Apparently, this simple fact is not known or plainly ignored by many owners/operators of such facilities.

The recently released US Chemical Safety Board investigation into the Jackson, Mississippi oilfield accident,  clearly indicates that the  owner company failed to do this basic test, before allowing workers to do the welding work. The result was a very predictable explosion, with an unfortunate fatality too.  This,  in a developed country, supposedly industrially advanced, like the US of A; we’re not talking about some Timbuctoo in some remote corner of the world.

The latest such incident is an oilfield explosion in Ohio.  Just about three weeks ago there was another similar accident in Honolulu. The US Chemical Safety board has sent a team to the site for an investigation into the Ohio explosion ( the Honolulu investigation is still on) and we will know only later whether this too, was the result of not conducting a “flammable gas test” at the site before allowing such work to start.

I wonder whether the managements are incompetent or plain negligent or ignorant about the hazards of allowing hot work, in areas known to have flammable vapors and gases.  This is because explosive gas monitors are not at all expensive , easily available everywhere and are also pretty easy to operate.  Training is available in many forms, including an excellent e-learning course on Gas Monitors, as well as from other sources such as vendors.

It is time that the authorities made it loud and clear to all owner/operators that there will be zero tolerance for such negligent acts. I understand that the US Chemical Safety Board can only make recommendations, not issue penalties, so this has to be done by some other federal agency.

As always your comments on this issue are welcome!