The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has deployed a seven-person team to the site of a fatal explosion at the Kleen Energy Plant in Middletown, Conn.

According to media reports, the explosion at approximately 11:30 a.m. on February 7, resulted in multiple fatalities and injuries and caused off-site damage.

CSB lead investigator Don Holmstrom said, “The CSB’s investigative team will examine the activities that were ongoing at the time of this accident, including any gas purging, as indicated by initial media reports.”

At a public meeting on Thursday, February 4, the CSB issued urgent recommendationsthat the national fuel gas codes be changed to improve safety when gas pipes are being purged – cleared of air – during maintenance or the installation of new piping. The board’s urgent recommendations resulted from the CSB’s ongoing federal investigation into the June 9, 2009, natural gas explosion at the ConAgra Slim Jim production facility in Garner, N.C., which caused four deaths, three critical life-threatening burn injuries, and other injuries that sent a total of 67 people to the hospital.

The CSB issued a safety bulletin on gas purging in October 2009, because of the occurrence of multiple serious accidents during purging operations. Key safety lessons described in the bulletin included purging gases to a safe location outdoors away from ignition sources, evacuating non-essential workers during purging, using combustible gas monitors to detect any hazardous gas accumulations, and effective training for personnel involved in purging,

Holmstrom leads the CSB’s Western Regional Office located in Denver and led the agency’s investigation into the 2009 purging accident at the ConAgra facilityin Garner. 

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating serious chemical accidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.

The board does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA.