Every year in Massachusetts, hundreds of gas line accidents are caused by contractors, construction workers, and utility companies. In addition to being extremely dangerous, these accidents are costly and can lead to closed roads and other problems. In 2015, an explosion in Springfield injured 18 people and damaged 42 buildings when a utility worker accidentally hit a high-pressure gas line. Unfortunately, these accidents occur with relative frequency. Although most incidents are contained, larger explosions can result in serious injuries and fatalities.
WWLP 22News launched an investigation into these accidents, reviewing state records and interviewing contractors and utility companies. The findings were shocking – between November 2012 and December 2015, a total of 1,434 gas line accidents were reported. That’s an average of more than one accident per day. Outside of Boston, Springfield and Chicopee had the highest reported number of accidents, with Springfield registering 48 and Chicopee registering 50. “There’s so many roads in Chicopee that are under construction, and more work being done, there’s more of an inherent chance that something might get hit,” said Mark Galerneau, Chicopee’s Fire Captain, “If the contractor is doing their due diligence and do what they’re supposed to do I think they can minimize the problems.”
The problem is, employers don’t always do their due diligence, and workers can suffer the consequences. If you have been injured due to employer negligence, it is in your best interest to consult with a MA work injury lawyer as soon as possible. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.
Hundreds of Violations Discovered
According to state records, adequate precautions were not taken in 522 of the reported gas line accidents, and the lines were incorrectly marked or not properly maintained in 413 of the accidents. And in many cases, Dig Safe was never called. Dig Safe is a communication network that exists to notify utility companies when excavation work will be performed near their installations, and state law requires that individuals and companies performing excavations call Dig Safe prior to beginning work. Although Dig Safe training is not mandatory, following established laws is. Fines for violating these laws include:
- First offense: $1,000
- Second or subsequent offenses within a 12-month period: $5,000 to $10,000
Follow OSHA Regulations to Avoid Gas Line Explosions
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has established excavation requirements to protect workers from accidentally causing damage to underground gas lines. Prior to beginning any type of excavation, workers should:
- Establish the location of underground gas lines.
- Contact appropriate utility companies or property owners to establish exact location of underground gas lines.
- If utility companies or property owners do not respond to the request within 24 hours, workers may proceed with caution with the assistance of detection equipment.
- Use a safe and acceptable method to determine the exact location of gas lines.
- When the gas line is located, it should be protected, supported, or removed as deemed necessary for the protection of workers and the local area.