Spring 2013      |      Stephen P. Sands, Registrar      |      Edmund G. Brown Jr., Governor


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Don't Hit the Gas When Aiming for the Sewer Line

sewer diagram

Clearing a blockage from an outside sewer line should be treated with extra caution according to major natural gas providers. In addition to landscaping or tree roots, some blockages can occur if a natural gas pipeline was installed through the line using trenchless construction methods prior to the sewer line being put in use, according to both Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) and Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E).

Sending an auger tool down the sewer line to clear the obstruction could damage a smaller gas pipeline, which may result in a gas leak. Licensees who use mechanical equipment to clear blockages from exterior sewer lines should check with the utility company to make sure the problem isn't an adjacent natural gas pipeline.

Both SoCalGas and PG&E will investigate, at no charge, if there is a pipeline conflict with the sewer line within their service territories. PG&E recommends that contractors call the utility's 24-hour service line at 800.743.5000 to arrange for a professional inspection. More information about PG&E's Crossbore Inspection Program or safe sewer cleanouts can be found at www.pge.com/myhome/edusafety/gaselectricsafety/sewercleaningsafety/. PG&E said 12,300 sewer inspections were performed during the pilot year of its video inspection program last year, and expects to conduct 20,000-50,000 inspections per year for the next few years. Those working in SoCalGas's service area should call 800.427.2200 or visit socalgas.com/safety/gas-warning.shtml for more information about its program.

Protect Yourself from Dangerous Paint Stripper

scraping old paint

A widely available solvent that's been blamed for 13 worker deaths since 2000, including two in California, should be avoided if possible, or used only under the strictest safeguards, according to the California Department of Public Health's (CDPH) Occupational Health Branch.

Methylene chloride, also known as MeCI, is an ingredient found in many paint stripping products that are available at hardware and home improvement stores. It's also used in various industries for the production of polymer foams and as a degreaser.

But methylene chloride is a cancer-causing chemical that has caused death and serious illness among workers and consumers working in enclosed spaces, according to CDPH's Occupational Health Branch, which has investigated two worker deaths from overexposure to MeCI in the state since 2010. A 62-year-old paint maker died while cleaning a paint tank in 2011; a second worker was nearly killed attempting to rescue him. In 2010, a maintenance worker, age 24, died while paint-stripping a church baptismal font using a product that contained methylene chloride.

An investigation concluded the two men who died were overcome by vapors while working in confined spaces.

If workers must use toxic chemicals, such as methylene chloride, employers must provide training in confined space entry and following OSHA regulations during an entry. That includes property ventilation, supplied air respiratory protection, air monitoring, communications, and means of rescue and retrieval.

For information about confined space safety, go to: www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/dosh_publications/confspa.pdf.

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