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HAZARD ALERT

Propane Leak Causes Workplace Explosion

Two daycare workers suffered serious burns when propane gas that had accumulated in the air ignited. They had noticed a propane smell and a lack of hot water from the sink. When they reset a hot water heater breaker in the basement, it caused the flammable gas to ignite.

The investigation revealed that there was approximately five centimetres of water on the basement floor. Because the base of the water heater was submerged in water, a safety control valve had corroded, causing a propane build-up in the basement.

Recommended Preventive Action

  • Propane leaks smell like rotten eggs. Educate workers so they can recognize the smell and know how to respond.
  • If you smell propane, if possible, shut the source of the leak; evacuate the premises immediately. Follow up with the fire department and propane supplier.
  • Do not allow gas appliances to sit in water. Have a certified technician service the system if you suspect water damage.
  • Avoid touching electrical switches or appliances when a leak is suspected.
  • Inform workers of the dangers of resetting a breaker inside a control panel. Only allow qualified persons to reset a breaker if live parts are exposed.
  • Install a propane detector according to the manufacturer’s instruction.
  • Any modification or addition to existing gas installations must be done by a certified technician.

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