A Gas explosion can occur as a result of a defective product or human error—such as lack of proper safety training-- in the workplace, resulting in a gas line explosion and accidents in the home (e.g., propane explosion, natural gas explosion and barbeque propane explosions often cause severe burn injuries and sometimes death. People working in the natural gas industry, such as those on gas pipelines, are particularly at risk.
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A number of gas explosions can be traced back to negligence and insufficient safety procedures by gas companies; even the slightest error can trigger a disaster and result in death.
Because natural gas is highly combustible and propane is extremely flammable, federal and state laws and local regulations govern the propane and natural gas industry, but these laws are complex and typically require an experienced gas accident attorney to interpret them. When a gas explosion occurs, it is critical that experienced fire investigators and gas explosion attorneys are able to analyze evidence and determine the chain of events leading up to the explosion--from the source of ignition to the substance that accelerates the development of a fire to the accelerant' path to ignition.
Utilities companies that provide service to homes and businesses could use outdated and faulty equipment, such as defective pipes, gas regulators and gas meters. There may be a lack of maintenance, which has the potential for greater risk of gas accident over time.
Gas companies must have stringent measures in place regarding new pipelines and refitting old pipes. For instance, odorant (which emits the "rotten egg"smell) is injected in new pipes to make natural gas smell and thereby easier to detect a leak, but some pipes might not have enough odorant and sometimes gas companies neglect to warn their customers that their pipes could have inadequate odorant saturation, meaning that a gas leak might not be detected by smell. (See gas explosion lawsuits and settlements, below.)
Other causes of gas pipe explosions include:
- Construction and configuration of specific gas facilities
- Gas composition, flow and pressure
- Rust, moisture, and substances (e.g.liquids) in the pipe
- Sporadic, little, or no gas flow over a long period of time
- Soil surrounding underground pipes
Home Gas and Propane Explosions
Faulty barbeque propane tanks and barbecue grills are common causes of propane explosions. Propane barbecues and grills could be defective; the valve or line from the tank to the appliance could be faulty. Also, when exposed to extreme heat, tanks and cylinders can build up pressure, causing the tank to rupture and explode.
Common gas appliance and equipment failures include lawn mower gas cans, gas stoves and grills, water heaters, gas generators, central heating and cooling systems, gas space heaters, and more.
Vehicle Gas tanks
Defective vehicle gas tanks can occur as a result of defective design, codes and standards violations and disregard of safety practices by improperly trained employees.
Approximately 1.5 million Pinto' were recalled by Ford due to a design defect of the gas tank; GM settled about 300 cases for more than $495 million over its gas tank defects and recently, the Crown Victoria, which is often used as a police vehicle, has a history of gas tank explosions. (The federal government' investigation of the design defects of the Crown Victoria is ongoing).
Gas Explosion Lawsuits and Settlements
Gas Explosion Lawsuits
2010: Public Service Electric & Gas reached a $450,000 settlement with the family of a New Jersey man who was killed in a gas explosion. Neighbors reported smelling a gas odor about two weeks before the blast, but a utility worker checked for leaks on the day of the explosion.
2008: A Minnesota homeowner was severely burned due to an uncapped line that leaked propane gas into the home, which did not have propane gas detectors to warn of the leaking gas. The homeowner settled for $1 million against an electrical company that contributed to the cause of the explosion, and the suit is still pending regarding other defendants involved in the suit.
2008: A couple in Florida were killed when a propane leak resulted in an explosion. The propane retailer and appliance manufacturers were found negligent due to failure to warn, including the need to have gas detectors installed inside clients' homes, and negligent testing and inspection. A settlement of $800,000 was reached out of court.
2006: A fuel shutoff valve improperly placed caused three young children to be severely burned when they came home from school. The oldest lit the stove to cook a snack and the leaked gas exploded. The case against the propane retailer settled for $6 million.
2005: Two maintenance workers were severely injured at a construction site. A jury agreed that the gas company was liable because it failed to provide warnings about odor fade (above).
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