Propane Safety for You and Your Family

Many Massachusetts residents use propane to cook, and to heat their homes and hot water. Many more use propane in outdoor barbeques and other appliances. While usually safe, the safety of some propane deliveries has been a recent subject of concern in Massachusetts. Earlier this month, state officials reported the company DCP Midstream of Westfield, Massachusetts, a major propane company, had distributed odorless propane to residential and commercial customers.

Without the required additive known as mercaptan, which emits a strong odor, there is no way to detect the odorless propane gas which may have leaked into the environment. The risk to consumers arises from the possibility of an explosion or fire from leaking propane gas.

In July, a 48-year-old electrician was killed in an explosion in a Norfolk, Massachusetts condominium. According to other workers at the site, there was no detectable odor of propane gas prior to the deadly explosion. The electrician was severely burned and trapped under heavy debris for over 90 minutes before he was rescued and taken to the hospital. He died the following day.

An investigation has found an undetected propane leak caused the blast. DCP Midstream was the distributor of the propane for the condominium development. It was later learned other propane supplies at the development were missing the required odorant.

In addition to faulty gas supplied by DCP Midstream, state Attorney General Martha Coakley has said her office has a “sense” some of the odorless propane in Massachusetts originated with Aux Sable Liquid Products of Illinois. That company has now warned officials there may be odorless gas in 12 states.

Breakstone, White & Gluck represents the family of the late electrician and continues to investigate. As a service to our clients, Breakstone, White & Gluck offers the following safety tips for the use of propane.

1. Contact your propane supplier if you have had a propane delivery since May 2010. State officials have announced that the deliveries of the dangerous propane from DCP Midstream began on May 1, 2010.

2. Ask your propane supplier where it obtains its propane – for work and for your home. The DCP Midstream facility had 100 local suppliers that deliver to residential and commercial customers. In the Norfolk case, EnergyUSA was the local supplier.

3. Do not attempt to inspect your system yourself. This could have the adverse effect of creating a leak. Contact your local supplier.

4. Purchase a Gas Detector. They are available for approximately $60 at your local hardware store or online.

5. Check propane valves to ensure they are in the off positions when not in use. Propane tanks on barbeques and other appliances should always be shut off after use.

6. Take immediate action if you smell gas. Mercaptan emits a strong sulfur smell. It is what you smell if your stove does not light properly. If you believe that there is a gas leak in your home, immediately evacuate and call 911. Do not turn any switches on or off before your leave the premises since even a small spark can ignite leaking gas.

Breakstone, White & Gluck remains committed to promoting safety and to the representation of individuals who may have been injured due to the negligence of others.

We specialize in cases involving complex personal injuries, including construction accidents, explosions and motor vehicle accidents. If we can assist your family on a case or with a safety related matter, please call or e-mail our firm for assistance.