An experienced construction company carrying out work on a new car park and drains at a Staffordshire hospital has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
The case which was held at Staffordshire Magistrates Court, detailed an incident in January 2014 when a large excavating vehicle damaged a plastic gas pipe causing a significant gas leak.
The gas escape took ninety minutes to control.
The court heard that the gas pipe led to the hospital’s energy centre which provided 90% of the buildings heating. Fortunately, the energy was combined and engineers were able to switch to using oil.
The HSE told the court that current guidelines state that plastic gas pipes should be located by hand digging before any excavation with machinery. Furthermore, machinery should not be used within 500mm of a gas pipe.
The HSE concluded that the construction company had neglected to follow safe working practices or follow recommended guidelines.
The court fined the firm £14,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,723 after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 34(3) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.
Andrew Bowker from the HSE spoke after the hearing stating:
“On this occasion there was a general breakdown in the company’s comprehensive health and safety procedures for preventing such an incident.”
“It failed to suitably plan and monitor the work; failed to hand dig trial holes to locate a known gas pipe; failed to have a suitable exclusion zone between the excavator and the pipe; and failed to use safe digging methods to expose the pipe.”
“The result was a highly dangerous situation that had the potential to expose construction workers, hospital staff, patients and visitors to an initial flash fire and subsequent fire and explosion risk.”