A Pennsylvania gas worker died in early 2011, just four months into his job with Philadelphia Gas Works. The 19-year-old started working for PGW because that’s where his father was employed for decades. The teen was the victim of a fatal workplace accident. Five other PGW workers were injured but survived the massive explosion and fire.
Reports said natural gas leaked into a basement from a broken main. A furnace switch clicking on apparently touched off the blast and fire that leveled two row homes. The young PGW employee who died was working in the street just outside one of the townhouses.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission took more than two years to investigate and resolve the incident. In recent weeks, the PUC announced a settlement. Philadelphia Gas Works was fined $500,000 and agreed to alter its work safety and training practices.
The blast victim’s parents are troubled. The gas company and gas workers’ union split the costs of the deceased employees’ funeral. Proceeds from a PGW life insurance policy went to the parents. The couple may not file a
wrongful death claim
against PGW, according to the state Workers’ Compensation Act.
The utility workers’ parents have reached a legal dead end, but the same may not be true in the future for people in these circumstances. There is new hope that surviving families of utility workers killed while on-duty will receive some death benefits.
A state law currently allows benefits of up to $100,000 for families of emergency personnel who die on the job. A bill has been introduced that that would make sure families of Pennsylvania gas employees are also eligible for the compensation.
The PUC settlement did not require Philadelphia Gas Works to admit guilt. Negligence was implied. The state’s negative assessment would have benefited the parents in a civil action, if they were allowed to file one.
Family of PGW worker killed in blast still in pain
” Andrew Maykuth, Jul. 23, 2013