If you’re like most people, you’ve learned to rely on your sense of smell to detect a natural gas leak. In and around your home, that distinctive, sulfur-like odor is in fact a sure sign that natural gas is leaking from an appliance burner or pipe. But it’s not the only sign, especially on the job site. And in some cases, natural gas leaks don’t smell at all.
Xcel Energy adds the odorant Mercaptan to natural gas. This odor, which is similar to sulfur or rotten eggs, helps most people smell a leak. But in some cases the odor of natural gas can be masked by other smells, or the gas can be stripped of its odor. This is known as “odor fade.”
So be sure to rely on your eyes and ears (not just your nose) to detect the warning signs of a gas leak. Be alert for hissing or roaring sounds, dirt spraying or blowing into the air, continuous bubbling in water, or dead/dying vegetation in an otherwise moist area over or near a pipeline.
Protect yourself, your coworkers, and the public by taking the following steps:
- Evacuate the area immediately, including nearby buildings. Warn others to stay away.
- Leave the excavation open, and do not attempt to stop the flow of gas or fix the pipeline.
- Do not light a match, start an engine, or operate any electrical device—even a phone. A spark could ignite the gas.
- Abandon equipment.
- From a safe location, call 911 and Xcel Energy at
800-895-2999. Call even if damage is a minor nick or scrape.
- Stay away from the area until safety officials say it is safe to return.
- Report the incident to your supervisor.
Even a slight gouge, scrape, or dent to a pipeline, its coating, or a wire attached to or running alongside the pipe, may cause a break or leak in the future. Report ALL gas line contacts to Xcel Energy at
800-895-2999 so crews can inspect the line and make the necessary repairs.
Additional overhead and digging guidelines, case studies, instructional videos, and training tools can all be found, at no charge to you, on Xcel Energy’s e-SMARTworkers website.
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