Distinction exists between placing gas system into service, in operation

August 7, 2013 By    

The 2012 edition of NFPA 54 discusses in specific language what needs to be done following an interruption of service or out-of-gas call. It requires the system receive a leak check. See Section 8.2.3.

Prior to 1999, the code required that after an existing system had been “shut off” (an interruption of service or out-of-gas call) and for all new installations you were to enter the home and inspect the gas lines to be sure there were “no open fittings or ends and that all manual valves at outlets on equipment are closed and all unused valves at outlets are closed and plugged or capped.” See 4.2.1 of NFPA 54 (1996).

This requirement in the code was modified in the 1999 edition to limit this inspection requirement of the gas line inside the home to a “new system of gas piping.” The note following the corresponding section of the 1999 handbook to the code at Section 4.2.2 explains that this change was made “based on input from the propane industry recognizing that it is often not possible to enter a building when gas service is restored after a shutoff. This condition occurs much more frequently when propane is the fuel, since the propane tank might have been routinely emptied with use, and the homeowner might not be home during delivery.”

In an effort to create a way around this code limitation, to create potential liability against propane companies, some players in the plaintiff’s bar have tried to claim that after the leak check the gas company must also purge air from the gas system and light appliances following an interruption of service or out-of-gas call.

In the 2012 edition of NFPA 54, the process for purging a gas system of air or inert gas is found at Sections 8.2.4, 8.3.1 and 8.3.2 – and their subsections. The section for lighting appliances is found at 8.3.3 in this same edition of the code.

The lynchpin of the plaintiff’s argument starts with Section 8.2.4, which states in relevant part that “appliances and equipment shall not be placed in operation until after the piping system has been checked for leakage in accordance with 8.2.3 and purged in accordance with 8.3, and connections to the appliance are checked for leakage.”

The claim is that after an interruption of service or out-of-gas call you must do more than just leak check to meet code. You must also purge the system of air and light appliances. The methods for purging safely are described in Sections 8.3.1 and 8.3.2. Finally, Section 8.3.3 requires that “after the piping system has been placed in operation, appliances and equipment shall be purged before being placed into operation.”

The problem with this argument is that it ignores the clear language of the code. A leak check is required when a system is placed into “service.” When a gas system is placed into “operation,” the code requires that the gas piping and all appliances and equipment also need to be purged of air safely. The distinction between putting a gas system into service versus putting it into operation was done for a clear purpose in the code.

Since 1999, the code no longer requires that a gas company enter a home following an out-of-gas call or interruption of service to check for open gas lines. A leak check from outside the house can be done and meet code. The only thing the code requires is that when you put the system in operation, you purge it of air or inert gas safely and purge the appliances and equipment safely before lighting them. These steps are not required when you simply put a system in service.

You may see this strategy employed in some of your cases now and in the future, and now you know the answer.

John V. McCoy is with McCoy Leavitt Laskey LLC, and his firm represents industry members nationally. He can be reached at 262-522-7007 or jmccoy@MLLlaw.com.

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1 Comment on "Distinction exists between placing gas system into service, in operation"

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  1. Hank Hill says:

    Please list the precidence where this strategy for defense has been successful in defending a Retailer. Otherwise free advice and $1.10 will get you a cup of coffee