Plug gaps in energy regulations to prevent gas explosion accidents

The aftermath of a huge gas blast in Embakasi Nairobi last night.

Wreckage of burnt trucks and tankers a day after a gas explosion in the Embakasi area of Nairobi on February 1, 2024. PHOTO | WILFRED NYANGARESI | NMG

Nairobi residents on Friday, February 2, 2024, woke to the sad news of a liquid petroleum gas (LPG) explosion in the Miradi area of Embakasi Constituency. An inferno at the residential estate killed three people and injured 280 others.

Many Kenyans were left with more questions than answers about the social protections and regulatory authorities mandate for mitigating such catastrophes.

The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Epra) issued a statement, confirming the explosion was linked to a refilling facility that existed illegally within the residential areas. Further, it was noted that the regulatory body had declined permits to build the facility in March, June, and July 2023 in the residential area.

How then did the operations continue running seven months later, risking the residents' lives? The effectiveness of the regulatory entities and enforcement agencies is questionable.

The operations of similar gas storage and filling sites raise scepticism about the transparency and accountability of regulatory enforcement authorities. The governance structure of the regulators requires scrutiny to identify accountability gaps for continued improvement. The benefits of governance and strategic review benefit the enforcement agencies in the following ways for years to come.

A well-defined governance structure established stringent compliance standards. The standards must encompass everything from premise maintenance to personnel training. Adherence is equally observed to ensure safety protocols are not only formulated but an implementation framework is tracked.

Clear lines of accountability and responsibility are drawn. This not only helps in identifying the key decision-makers within the entities but also helps in understanding their roles in maintaining safety standards.

When everyone knows their responsibilities, the likelihood of oversights leading to disasters like the Miradi inferno is diminished.

Regular audits and inspections create a continuous loop of evaluation and improvement. Routine checks on facilities, equipment, and procedures allow for the identification and rectification of potential hazards.

Distribution companies must have comprehensive contingency plans in place. A detailed response to various scenarios is necessary. A proactive approach minimises the impact of accidents by ensuring swift, well-coordinated responses in the event of unforeseen incidents.

The recent catastrophe will place the relevant authorities under scrutiny as Kenyans watch. Importantly, it’s crucial for the regulatory entities to learn from the incident by taking proactive measures rather than reactive ones. Commendations to the Kenya Police, Kenya Red Cross, and Saint John’s Ambulance for their quick response in support of the Embakasi residence on that fateful night. On the foregoing, Kenyans remain positive that corrective action will be taken sooner rather than later to mitigate similar occurrences.

The writer is a member, Institute of Certified Secretaries.