Vancouver, BC (October 26, 2022) – Two investigations by Technical Safety BC into natural gas line explosions are prompting a renewed focus on education and awareness for workers and homeowners digging around exposed utilities. The investigations looked into two separate gas line incidents that occurred in Comox and Fernie in November 2021 and February 2022. They caused extensive damage to buildings, infrastructure, and resulted in injuries to 30 people, some of them serious.
“The similarities between these two incidents underscore the need for more education and awareness. Many people know to 'call before you dig,' but it's important to understand what precautions must be taken before digging, during excavation, and once the gas line is exposed.” said Ryan Hazlett, Leader of Incident Investigation at Technical Safety BC.
The first incident occurred at the Canadian Forces Base Comox (CFB Comox) in November 2021 and involved crews who were digging near a building in proximity to exposed gas lines. It resulted in a major explosion to the military barracks building, injuring 28 people. The Fernie incident occurred just three months later causing a house explosion and two injuries when an excavator installing a water line struck an exposed gas line.
“Unfortunately, nearly half of all gas line hits in British Columbia occur despite workers taking initial precautions such as calling BC 1 Call before digging,” added Hazlett. “This is why we are urging workers and those undertaking DIY excavation to better understand the risks involved with digging near gas lines and the extra precautions they can take once gas lines are exposed.”
Technical Safety BC is reminding British Columbians that exposed gas lines are vulnerable to mechanical damage and present an increased risk of a gas leak or explosion from getting hit if proper precautions are not taken regarding containment and ignition risks.
Following these investigations, Technical Safety BC is urging people doing excavating work to consider the following:
- That the use of mechanical excavators near gas lines, especially close to buildings should be avoided unless:
- The risk of explosion has been completely assessed, and additional steps have been taken to mitigate the risk and impact if a gas line is hit.
- Those who are digging pay close attention to where they are digging and any structures that may be nearby.
- Those on-site are aware of the dangers of an exposed gas line and ensure they are working safely around it.
- Extra precautions are taken before and after a gas line is exposed. It’s important to have a plan in place should there be a gas leak or explosion after the gas line has been exposed.
Each year in British Columbia, there are hundreds of incidents where buried gas lines and utilities are damaged by homeowners or contractors who are excavating or digging, despite having checked for gas lines before digging. These incidents put people at risk, cause traffic and service interruptions, and often result in costly repairs; however, they can be avoided. There are many courses that work to educate British Columbians on the risks associated with digging near gas lines.
Always ensure that before you dig, you schedule a request online or by phone at 1 800 474 6886. This free online service is available 24/7 365 days a year. Requests should be made a minimum of three full business days before the planned excavation.
View both of Technical Safety BC’s investigation reports.
About Technical Safety BC
Technical Safety BC is an independent, self-funded organization that oversees the safe installation and operation of technical systems and equipment. In addition to issuing permits, licences and certificates, it works with industry to reduce safety risks through assessment, education and outreach, enforcement, and research.
Technical Safety BC