Print Print This Page

Alert: Air Pressure in Water Pipe Systems

  • ISSN: 1195-5228
  • Issued: December 1993
  • Content last reviewed: June 2009

Hazard Summary:

During accident investigations, Ministry of Labour field staff have found that, after a water pipe system has been pressurized to test connection leaks or for low pressure air testing, the pressure in the end pipe often remains dangerously high. Acting on the end pipe cap or on the thrust block, this pressure is usually counterbalanced by the pressure of the soil backfill until the excavation is re-excavated to connect the end pipe to new pipes. Unless the pressure is relieved, the pipe cap or the thrust block can become a high velocity projectile, potentially endangering workers in or near the excavation.

Location(s) and Sector(s):

Excavations for water pipe connections.

Suggested Precautions:

To avoid a potential hazard to workers, all constructors should take the following precautions:

  1. When existing water pipes are to be connected to a new installation and there is no pressure relief valve on the system the pipe should be tapped following approved pipe tapping procedures. At no time should pipe cap screws be loosened under pressure allowing the pipe cap to "blow-off." A written procedure for this operation should be on the project. The workers must be aware of the potential hazard and trained to work in accordance with this procedure.
  2. It is recommended that pressure relief valves or similar devices be incorporated into the design of new underground piping systems.

The constructor must ensure that work in the excavation is done in accordance with clause 48(1)(a) of Ontario Regulation 231/91, the Regulation for Construction Projects.

This Ministry of Labour Alert has no legal effect and does not constitute and is not a substitute for legal advice. If you require specific assistance with respect to the interpretation of a legislative provision and its potential application to you please contact your legal counsel.

Remember that while complying with occupational health and safety laws, you are also required to comply with applicable environmental laws.

Please photocopy Ministry of Labour Alerts, distribute them widely and post them where people will see them.