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Boiler explosions and safety to be discussed at inspectors' annual meeting

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April 12, 2017 #17-013

Tumwater – Boiler explosions in Spokane, Idaho and St. Louis will be among the safety issues discussed an annual meeting of the Washington State Boiler Inspectors Association on April 13 in Seattle.

The incidents highlight the need for owners of boilers and other types of pressure vessels, such as hot water heaters in public areas, to get regular inspections.

"Keeping the public safe is our most important goal," said Tony Oda, chief boiler inspector and head of the Boiler Program with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I). "Annual inspections can save lives, save owners money on energy costs, and point out needed repairs before they turn into tragedies."

There are more than 114,000 industrial and commercial boilers and pressure vessels statewide. L&I and private insurance companies do the annual inspections that make for safe operation.

Recent incidents include:

  • L&I citing the city of Spokane for safety failures and training inadequacies after two employees were badly burned while cleaning a boiler at the city's Waste-to-Energy facility in 2016.
  • The blast at a Pocatello church March 21 that severely injured one man who was cleaning the boiler room.
  • An April 3 explosion at a St. Louis company that sent a one-ton boiler flying 500 feet into the air before landing 500 feet away and killing four people.

Oda said far too often people and businesses install boilers without getting the proper permits. As a result, he estimates at least 75 percent of the 6,000 boilers installed annually in the state aren't inspected when they start operation. That means they are not checked out by inspectors until a year or two after they are installed.

People with questions about whether their boiler is registered can contact the agency at Boiler information is available online at

The association members include inspectors from across the state. Tomorrow's meeting at the Museum of Flight will also include remarks from Hall of Fame hydroplane driver Chip Hanauer, discussion of water treatment issues for boilers, and a presentation from a representative of The National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors.


For media information:

Matthew Erlich, Public Affairs, 360-902-6508,

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