Man cut into gas pipe causing gas leak that destroyed homes…
A property firm in Manchester has been hit with a massive £100,000 fine after a gas explosion at a building they were converting destroyed nearby homes in December 2009.
The company had been working on converting a former hospital building into new hosues and apartments when one of their employees accidently cut into a six-inch gas pipe while working in an underground tunnel. The 41-year-old employee sustained severe burns to his hands and face when the gas inside the pipe ignited and soon after that the gas leaked around the area leading to a huge explosion that destroyed the site and damaged homes.
Manchester Crown Court was told that a significant number of lives could have been lost if the emergency services had not moved so fast after the initial gas leak as residents from homes in the area were rapidly evacuated before the larger explosion occurred.
Indeed it wasn’t just residents that were endangered by the gas leak but local businesses, a hospital, a police station and some schools were also evacuated in order to minimize the risk associated with the gas explosion.
The HSE investigation into the incident discovered the principal contractor had been provided with a detailed plan of the National Grid which clearly displayed the location of the gas main running into the site they were converting. The company neglected to carry out a detailed survey of the working environment and had erred further by informing their employees that the gas pipes were no longer a factor thus endangering the lives of both their employees and members of the public who lived in the area.
The property developer pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 after failing to ensure the safety of their workers and the local residents. The court imposed a fine of £100,000 and ordered the company to pay additional prosecution costs of £21,404.
Thomas Merry, a HSE Inspector who investigated the case spoke after the hearing:
“This was a major incident that led to a massive emergency response and significant disruption to the neighbourhood. It was only luck that more people weren’t seriously injured or even killed in the explosion.
“It was unacceptable for the company to allow the work to go ahead without checking that the gas supply had been properly disconnected. What’s worse is that the company actually had a National Grid document showing a gas main entering the site.
“A simple check would have identified it as being live, and avoided months of disruption and heartache for those residents who lost their homes. “Construction companies involved in the refurbishment or demolition of buildings must make sure they know what potential dangers they’re dealing with before they allow work to start.”
Author: Julian Roberts
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