Lesson Learned/Best Practice Briefing


TitleReporting Natural Gas Odors

EventLBNL Event

Event Date06/28/2019

CategoryFacilities - Maintenance, Building Managers, Bunsen Burner Use

There have recently been several reports of natural gas odors in various technical areas or associated with natural gas delivery systems. Often times, only faint gas odors are detected by passers-by and therefore may go unresolved for days or possibly weeks until it turns into a larger leak with greater risk. This is especially true when it's presumed others are aware of and already addressing the leak or perhaps the location of the leak is presumed to belong to someone else. Some examples of recent reports of gas odors, where leaks were positively identified, include bench top gas valves in laboratory settings and outdoor gas delivery systems located on the exterior of buildings. In order to help limit life safety risks due to natural gas leaks, it's important to report natural gas odors promptly to appropriate personnel when they are first detected.

Actions to Prevent Recurrence
Often times when natural gas odors are detected, the perception of risk may be viewed as minor in nature. This may be especially true in laboratory settings where natural gas odors can sometimes be difficult to assess due to their transient nature as a result of increased ventilation rates and air flow patterns due to fume hoods, etc. The same is true for outdoor gas delivery systems where the odor is diluted with the outside air. Although the odors may be faint, there could be cases where the gas is confined with an elevated concentration near hot work or other ignition sources.

For these reasons, it's important to take a proactive approach and notify employees in the immediate work area, supervisory and Division safety staff, followed by ensuring the building manager and LBNL Operations personnel (e.g., Facility Area Manager or FAM) are aware of the odor to help manage the response.

If live contact is not made with the FAM or building manager, contact LBNL's 24/7, Non-Life-Threatening Incident Reporting number (Lab phone x6999 or from cell phones or offsite locations call 510-486-6999).

Contact the Facilities Work Request Center (x6274) to repair natural gas leaks as soon as possible unless already initiated by the FAM. For Non-Life-Threatening Incidents, EHS can also assist with helping locate the source of natural gas odors.

For situations involving life-threatening events, dial 911.

Lessons Learned are part of the ISM Core Function 5, Feedback and Improvement. Applicable Lessons Learned are to be considered during working planning activities and incorporated in work processes, prior to performing work.
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