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Con Edison Worker Training Falls Short

Sometimes, failure to properly train employees affects more than the employees involved. The general public can be hurt by such a failure, especially when the business is one that touches the lives of every New Yorker. A recent gas explosion in March is a case in point.

Con Edison, New York City’s gas utility, has admitted that there were problems with its training of workers responsible for installing the plastic pipes that carry gas under the streets of New York. Of the 525 workers trained since 2009, 301 had “lapses” in their qualifications. In March of this year, two buildings in East Harlem exploded, killing eight people. The precise cause of the explosion has not been announced.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is conducting the investigation into the accident, has said that there was a gas leak in a main under Park Avenue where the explosion occurred. However, it has not said whether the leak caused the explosion or what caused the leak. Additionally, investigators found a broken water main at the site, leading some to speculate that the broken water main caused damage to the gas pipe.

Most of the pipe on the block on Park Avenue where the explosion occurred is cast iron pipe laid 125 years ago. However, Con Edison had replaced some of the line with plastic pipe that does not leak as much.

After the explosion, state investigators looked at the utility’s operations. In May Con Edison admitted that it had not complied with training and testing rules for workers responsible for fusing plastic pipe together. In June, the New York Public Service Commission ordered the utility to take “corrective action.” Con Edison suspended plastic pipe work until all workers had been retrained.

Con Edison denies that problems with worker training were in any way responsible for the explosion. However, it has implemented a program to more aggressively identify gas leaks.


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