Gas line investigator never quits on safety

Posted Jun. 5, 2018 by

For Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) member Mike Purcell, safety has been a priority throughout his 27 years in public service. While his gas pipeline safety investigator job as a Utility Specialist 2 is anything but simple, his message IS: safety first! 

Natural gas is America’s most popular home heating fuel—heating more households than all other energy forms combined. And in order to maintain this demand, across the state and even from state-to-state, Purcell wears a lot of hats to make sure gas pipelines are safe and regulated and that Ohio citizens' homes and businesses are protected.

Purcell stays very busy, from performing root cause inspections of pipeline accidents and explosions to performing construction audits and making sure businesses follow federal and state safety pipeline regulations. "We put in a lot of hours, but it's worth it," he said.

Purcell, who has performed specialized investigations of some high-profile explosion cases, says he works hardest to make sure these kinds of accidents never happen in the first place. "One of my first investigations I ever did, there were fatalities. That's always hard. I use that experience to learn as much as I can about the gas industry and to educate the public on safety." Purcell says many accidents can be avoided, especially in the case of unnecessary third-party damage to lines. "Always, call before you dig!" he urges.

Purcell is also dedicated to making sure his co-workers are safe. He represents the union on the PUCO labor/management committee, and safety is always at the top of the list, he said. "We've got a professional group here at PUCO, and we're all highly focused on safety,"he said. Purcell has also served on negotiation teams with the agency, as well as at his former job with the City of Lancaster.

"It's important to have a union voice on everything from safety to building career ladders," said Purcell.

In his private life, Purcell dedicates his time to charitable giving in his community. One of Purcell’s greatest passions is the Charity Newsies. He was recently elected president of the Lancaster-Fairfield County Charity Newsies, whose mission is to provide adequate clothing and support to every child in order to succeed in school and in life. For Purcell, just like his job, his charitable work is a year-round commitment.

Read more union magazine stories like this at