Report: Lack of training, poor inspections, defective valve led to Ghent explosion
- By Scott Finn & Jessica Lilly, West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Investigators found four main causes for the explosion: a faulty valve on the propane tank; an inexperienced, untrained, unsupervised worker; a propane tank too close to the building; and the lack of any evacuation from the area until it was too late.
On the morning of January 30, 2007, a junior technician with Appalachian Heating was left alone to transfer propane from an old tank into a new tank.
The junior technician had been on the job for a month and a half. He had received no formal training.
There was no way to for that junior technician to know that the valve he was working on was defective, or that the company that made it had gone out of business.
But if he’d been properly trained, he should have recognized one warning sign as he removed the safety plug on the valve – it’s a tiny hole in the top called a telltale, which releases a tiny stream of propane it that valve is faulty.
Instead, when he removed the safety plug, a jet of propane burst upward, gathering under the eaves of the roof and infiltrating the building.
There’s two problems revealed so far. Problem number one: the technician wasn’t properly trained.
The state of West Virginia and 34 other states require no training for propane technicians. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration does require training, but it doesn’t say how much training, or what the training should include, according to CSB lead investigator Jeffrey Wanko.