This case involves a foreman who was killed in an unsafe work environment. The foreman was working on a sewer pipe when an inflatable plug exploded and struck him in the face. The foreman was rendered unconscious from the blow and suffered significant cranial injuries. The patient was immediately rushed to the hospital but eventually succumbed to his injuries. An expert in workplace safety with experience handling inflatable pipe plugs was sought to explain the procedures that should have been observed in order to prevent the plaintiff’s death.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Please describe your experience working with inflatable pipe pumps.
2. Can you explain the specific dangers relating to the misuse of inflatable pipe pumps?
3. How would you determine whether the appropriate safety precautions were observed?
Expert Witness Response E-028274
I have years of experience analyzing pipeline workplace environments and performing risk assessments. I am a certified OSHA construction trainer and a master trainer with the National Center for Construction Education and Research. I also hold a degree in safety and health occupation. I formerly served as the lead safety inspector at an energy pipeline services company as well as a regional safety supervisor and quality control manager at a pipeline construction company. I am currently the president of a major pipeline safety company where I serve as infrastructure security and surveillance consultant.
There should have been a calibrated bleed valve near the blowdown valve or somewhere in between the connected pipe plug and compressor. This work is sometimes done by the manufacturer if contracted out or done by the pipeline contractor if they purchased the balloons themselves. They come with maximum operating pressures and are used to not only keep debris out but to also provide a safe atmosphere when working with hazardous atmospheres created by both oil and gas along with their byproducts. The operating instructions should have been clearly conveyed in a tailgate meeting where the discussion along with the specific hazards should have been documented on a JSA/JHA. I have a few questions which will help determine if the proper precautions were observed: Was the product inspected visually for damage to include rips, scrapes, gouges, or holes? Were the gauges in operation on the compressor? Were there related training or desired OQ’s for those tasks which required pipe plugs?
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