U.S. Chemical Safety Board

CSB Interim Executive Authority Steve Owens said, “The CSB continues to see hot work incidents at a variety of facilities across the U.S. even though these are well-understood events and are avoidable. Increased adherence by companies to existing regulations and industry guidance can  keep other hot work incidents from happening in the future and help protect workers from harm.”

On August 12, 2016, hot work was being conducted by L-Con, a contractor of Sunoco, on a section of pipe that contained residual crude oil. The pipe segment was plugged on both ends by CARBER, a contractor hired by L-CON using an isolation device. During the welding operation on the inside surface of a flange, vapor inside the pipe gathered between two of the installed isolation tools and ignited. The ignition caused a build-up in pressure which led to a violent explosion at either end of the isolated pipe.

Board Member Sylvia Johnson said, “This is the second report that the agency has issued in the last two months. We are committed to getting this information out to companies and workers – our goal is to share valuable safety lessons with companies that perform hot work activities every day.”

Both Sunoco and L-Con developed plans and procedures to provide employees with guidance on how to safely conduct hot work operations, but the CSB found that guidance was inadequate to prevent the fire and explosion. Specifically, the investigation found that the pipe involved in the incident contained residual flammable crude oil which was not adequately cleaned or inerted prior to commencing hot work.  
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