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Safety warning for workers in purging gas installations

04 November, 2009

WorkCover NSW has issued a reminder to operators who work with gas supply lines and gas installations to use adequate safety precautions.

The warning follows the serious injury of two apprentice plumbers in March, when a large explosion occurred while the pair were purging the natural gas supply line to a residential unit block.

WorkCover is continuing to investigate this incident, where it appears flammable gases from the supply line ignited when released into a plant room that contained multiple ignition sources.

Acting WorkCover Chief Executive Officer, Rob Thomson, said it is important that employers and workers involved in gas installations are aware of the associated risks.

“It is essential that adequate measures are taken to purge large volume gas installations and any associated appliances to the safest location and away from potential ignition sources,” Mr Thomson said.

“It is important that purging of a gas installation should be completed and verified before maintenance or repair work is commenced on the system.

“Work in high-risk areas, such as those with flammable material, should be conducted with extreme care, ensuring appropriate and safe systems of work are in place that comply with relevant standards and industry codes of practice,” he said.

Purging is carried out to avoid the possibility of an explosive air and gas mixture forming in piping, appliances or confined spaces and risk controls include considering the type of gas, its pressure and the size of the installation ensuring:

  • the purge is carried out in accordance with network operator’s procedures
  • the purge outlet is at least six metres away from ignition sources and building openings
  • there is no smoking in the purge area 
  • the purge is carried out by appropriately trained personnel

    Copies of relevant standards can be obtained by contacting Standards Australia on 1300 654 646.

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