OSHA Hazard Information Bulletins|
The Use of Polyvinyl Chloride Pipe in Above Ground Installations.
OSHA Hazard Information Bulletins - Table of Contents by Year
- Information Date: 19880520
- Record Type: Hazard Information Bulletin
- Subject: The Use of Polyvinyl Chloride Pipe in Above Ground Installations.
May 20, 1988
MEMORANDUM FOR REGIONAL ADMINISTRATORS
Office of Field Programs
Directorate of Technical Support
|SUBJECT:||Safety Hazard Information Bulletin on|
the Use of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Pipe
in Above ground Installations
The Dallas Regional Office has brought to our attention a potential serious
hazard existing with the use of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic pipes for
transporting compressed gases in above ground installations. An employee in a
Texas plant was injured recently by a rupture in a PVC compressed air line.
Plastic projectiles from the point of rupture caused lacerations of the
employee's hand. This is noteworthy because the Plastic Pipe Institute, in
its Recommendation B dated January 19, 1972, recommends against the use of
thermoplastic pipe to transport compressed air or other compressed gases in
exposed plant piping. (See attachment.)
Furthermore, sections 842.32, 842.43 and 849.52(b) of the American National
Standards Institute/American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ANSI/ASME)
B31.8-1986, Gas Transmission and Distribution Piping Systems Standard, limit
the operating pressure of plastic piping distribution systems to 100 pounds
per inch (psi) and prohibit the installation of such systems above ground
except where ". . . the above ground portion of the plastic service line is
completely enclosed in a conduit or casing of sufficient strength to provide
protection from external damage and deterioration." (Excerpts attached.)
Additional consensus standards applicable to PVC compressed gas systems
include American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) D1785-86, Standard
Specification for Polyvinyl Chloride Plastic Pipe, Schedules 40, 80, and 120,
and ASTM D2513-86a, Standard Specification for Thermoplastic Gas Pressure
Please disseminate this bulletin to all Area Offices, State Plan States and
February 14, 1989
Mr. Jack Cannova Tempe
412 W. Dryon Street
Tempe, Arizona 85283
Dear Mr. Cannova:
In response to your recent inquiry concerning our regulatory position on the
use of plastic pipe for compressed air systems, I trust this letter will
clear up any confusion over the issue.
It is our position that PVC pipe shall not be used as a means of
transporting compressed air. This position follows the manufacturer's own
statements that PVC is unsuitable for compressed air systems. We do allow the
use of certain ABS materials that are specifically designed for compressed
air systems. One such product is "Duraplus" air line piping system ABS pipe.
However, as in any such system, the manufacturer's specifications on
acceptable pressure and temperature considerations must be followed.
In closing, misapplication of a product, such as using PVC for compressed
air systems, may result in citations and penalties being issued dependent
upon the specific conditions.
I appreciate your concern and inquiry into this potential safety hazard.
SAM A. ROGERS
October 5, 1988
Mr. Tim Arbogast
800 W. Washington
Phoenix, Arizona 85007-2922
Dear Mr. Arbogast:
It has recently come to my attention that there is a severe safety regarding
the improper usage of plastic polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe. This pipe is
designed for the transmittal of liquids, and is dangerous when used for
transmitting compressed air or gas. Unfortunately, PVC has been frequently
used with compressed air in construction projects across the country.
The state of Washington has notified the public that PVC pipe is not to be
used in compressed air systems. I have also learned that the state of Nevada
is in the process of making a similar determination and announcement.
Additionally manufacturers of this product advise against its use with
compressed air in their catalogue publications.
I believe that it is in the best interests of the citizens of our state if
your office would expeditiously make such an announcement. A notice to users
of the hazards of PVC pipe - when used improperly - would have the effect of
preventing possible severe injury to people who work with or near this
By way of this letter, I am contacting the Department of Labor, OSHA, in
Washington, D.C. and asking their officials to report to me on actions taken
on the Federal level to restrict the use of this pipe and to notify users of
the potential hazards involved in improper use of PVC pipe.
Your timely consideration of this request is appreciated.
United States Senator
STATE OF WASHINGTON
Labor & Industries
|For more information, call:||1-800-423-7233|
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE||May 26, 1988|
PVC pipe not to be used in compressed air systems
OLYMPIA -- The Department of Labor and Industries warned today that plastic
polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe cannot be used in compressed air piping systems
without the risk of explosion.
When PVC piping explodes, plastic shrapnel pieces are thrown in all
"We're seeing more incidents of explosive failure, and we're citing more
employers for using PVC air system piping," said Paul Merrill, senior safety
inspector in L&I's Spokane office.
"It's probably just a matter of time before someone gets seriously injured
in one of these explosions unless everyone pays more attention to the
manufacturer's warnings," Merrill said.
Last year, a section of PVC pipe being used for compressed air
exploded 27 feet above a warehouse floor. A fragment of the pipe flew 60 feet
and embedded itself in a roll of paper. Fortunately, nobody was in the area
at the time.
A PVC pipe explosion in a new plant in Selah broke an employee's
nose and cut his face.
PVC piping buried 3 feet underground at a Yakima manufacturing plant
exploded, opening up a crater approximately 4 feet deep by 3 feet
Only one type of plastic pipe has been approved for use with compressed air.
That pipe, Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene (ABS), is marked on the pipe as
approved for compressed air supply.
By law, employers must protect their workers by avoiding the use of
unapproved PVC pipe in such systems. Existing compressed air systems which
use PVC piping must be completely enclosed, buried or adequately guarded
according to specifications approved by a professional consulting engineer.
NOTICE TO EMPLOYERS: If you have questions about the suitability of a
material for air system piping, call Labor and Industries at the number
listed above for a free consultation.
NOTICE TO EMPLOYEES: If you suspect that a pressurized PVC piping hazard
exists, bring it to the attention of your employer. If you do not obtain
satisfactory results, you may file a confidential complaint with the
Department of Labor and Industries. Complaints are investigated promptly.
THE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION OF ARIZONA
DIVISION OF OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY & HEALTH
P.O. BOX 19070
PHOENIX, ARIZONA 80005-9070
We have recently been made aware of a potentially serious hazard involving
the prohibited use of unprotected plastic (PVC( piping to transport
compressed air and other compressed gases in above ground installations.
While in Arizona we are not aware of any incidents of ruptured or exploding
plastic pipes, States such as Washington and Texas have experienced incidents
and injuries. Despite the lack of incidents in Arizona, we full recognize the
potential for similar occurrences in this State and thereby request that you
review your facilities and replace any such unsafe installations.
The Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health will be providing a
program of awareness, assistance, and enforcement. This notice will be going
to representatives of industry associations, labor organizations, print and
Through our consultation and training program we will be providing
assistance based upon requests received from employers. Through our
compliance programs, we will be conducting unannounced inspections to ensure
compliance with manufacturers' specifications and American National Standards
Institute and American Society of Mechanical Engineers' Standard B 31.8-1986,
which limits the operating pressure of plastic piping distribution systems to
100 pounds per square inch (psi) and prohibits the installation of such
systems above ground except where the above ground portion of the plastic
service line is enclosed in a conduit or casing of sufficient strength to
provide protection from external damage and deterioration.
If you need assistance, please don't hesitate to call the Industrial
Commission's Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health at 255-5795.
PLASTICS PIPE INSTITUTE
355 LEXINGTON AVENUE, NEW YORK, N.Y.10017
FOR THE TRANSPORT OF COMPRESSED AIR
OR OTHER COMPRESSED GASES
Adopted January 19, 1972
The Plastics Pipe Institute recommends against the use of thermoplastic pipe
to transport compressed air or other compressed gases or the testing of such
piping with compressed air or other compressed gases in exposed above ground
locations, e.g. in exposed plant piping. It is recommended that all
thermoplastic piping used to transport compressed air or other compressed
gases be buried underground or encased in shatter-resistant materials. In
designing thermoplastic piping to transport compressed air or other
compressed gases, the strength at the operating temperature, the pressure,
the energetics, and specific failure mechanism need to be evaluated.
Colonial Engineering Inc.
Thermoplastic Piping Systems
To Whom It May Concern:
From time to time, I receive inquiries as to the suitability of using PVC
pipe land fittings in compressed gas piping systems. While the benefits of
use may be enticing, it is a very dangerous and, in some states, illegal
thing to do. For example, MIOSHA (Michigan's branch of OSHA) prohibits the
use of PVC plastic in compressed gas systems unless properly encased in
steel, cement, or some other approved material. Please check your local and
The main problem with using PVC pipe and fittings for compressed gas is not
that it spontaneously explodes but that PVC is a brittle material that can be
broken or shattered with external force unless properly protected. Compressed
gasses can be best described as being analogous to a coiled spring. When a
PVC pipe or fitting fails when under stress from compressed gas it literally
explodes like a bomb, sending shards of plastic flying several feet in all
directions. Liquids, on the other hand, being compressed by only 1/10th of 1%
contain very little stored energy. When pressurized systems with liquids
fail, the energy is dissipated very quickly, thereby creating a much lower
potential for hazard.
Colonial Engineering does not recommend the use of PVC plastic pipe fittings
in compressed gas service.
If you have further questions regarding this matter please feel free to
contact me directly.
ESLON THERMOPLASTICS, INC.
P.O. BOX 15894, CHARLOTTE, NC 28210
DATE: July 11, 1988
|TO||Eslon Sales Force|
|SUBJECT:||COMPRESSED AIR AND PLASTIC PIPE|
The dangers involved in using rigid vinyl piping products for compressed air
transport are well known in our industry. Numerous disclaimer bulletins and
letters have been circulated for almost three decades. It will not surprise
you to learn that our government has just recently recognized the problem.
Attached you will find a copy of a memorandum that was issued by the "U.S.
Dept. of Labor, Occupation Safety & Health Administration" (OSHA). You may
wish to give copies to your customers and any other interested party. The
government has finally made this danger "official."
PETER A. SCHUSTER
210 E. Grove Street Kawkawlin, MI 48631
October 4, 1989
RE: Testing Product Lines of Underground Storage Tanks
I am alerting you that there is a device on the market for pressure testing
product lines, used in conjunction with tank testing, which is not safe.
This device, manufactured by Horner Creative Products, 413 State Park Drive,
Bay City, Michigan 48706, utilizes a plastic (PVC) cylinder which is attached
to the pipeline, filled with gasoline, and then up to 100 PSI air pressure
applied to the cylinder.
Not only have the manufacturers of PVC indicated for years that "extreme
dangers" are involved because of its potential to explode, but they have
notified Mr. Horner via their distributors, that they do not want him using
their material (PVC) to make his line tester. He has thumbed his nose at the
manufacturers of PVC, and continues to market this product. The use of PVC
for compressed air or gas systems has been prohibited by several states - copies
of their hazard alerts enclosed.
As a responsible regulator it is only proper that you be aware of this
device being utilized nationwide by hundreds of unsuspecting operators. I
have documented three failures of this product line tester to date.
Fortunately no injuries have yet occurred, but there is obviously an imminent
danger to the operator and to the public. There have been documented cases
of similar misuse of PVC in compressed air or gas systems where injuries have
Please, before someone gets killed, or seriously hurt, help remove this
product from the marketplace. Obviously Mr. Horner will not remove it
without pressure being applied from you.
Should you have further questions, or I can be of further service, please
feel free to call on me.
Peter A. Schuster
OSHA Hazard Information Bulletins - Table of Contents by Year