CSB releases report on confined space regulations

Stronger confined space regulations from OSHA are necessary to prevent disasters similar to the Xcel Energy Inc. plant accident that killed five people three years ago, according to the Chemical Safety Board.

A water tunnel in Xcel's hydroelectric plant near Denver flashed into flames when vapor from a flammable solvent ignited during a re-coating operation on Oct. 2, 2007. In a report (.pdf file) issued Wednesday, CSB concluded the accident was caused by poor training and not taking necessary precautions with volatile flammable liquids in a permit-required confined space.

Accompanying the report is a video depicting how the Xcel tragedy occurred. On Monday, CSB released a letter (.pdf file) sent to Xcel CEO Richard C. Kelly, admonishing the company for failing to cooperate with CSB's investigation, attempting to block the board from releasing its report and violating confidentiality conditions through the unauthorized public release of a draft of CSB's report.

Current OSHA regulations permit entry or work in a confined space where flammable vapor concentrations exceed 10 percent of a chemical's lower explosive limit. CSB recommended the agency prohibit work in these potentially flammable atmospheres.

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)