Stephen Rowley, 43, from Macclesfield, suffered burns to his face, neck and both arms at Egerton Youth Club on Mereheath Lane in Knutsford on 18 September 2009.
His employer, Paul Leonard, appeared at Macclesfield Magistrates’ Court last week following a Health and Safety Executive investigation.
Leonard had been hired to repair a septic tank, and had arranged for a trench to be dug out to gain access.
Rowley was using a power tool in the trench to remove damaged pipework from the tank, when the digger operator struck an underground pipe containing liquid petroleum gas (LPG).
Sparks from the power tool set alight the leaking gas and created a fireball in the trench.
Rowley’s clothes were set on fire and he had to struggle out of the trench and then roll in the grass to put out the flames.
The court was told Leonard had left the workers unsupervised when the gas pipe was struck. He also failed to provide trench supports and there was no means of access, such as a ladder, to get in and out of the trench.
Leonard was found guilty of a breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations and was fined £2,500 and ordered to pay £3,500 in prosecution costs.
Speaking after the hearing, the investigating inspector at HSE, Catherine Willars, said: “Stephen Rowley could easily have been killed in the gas explosion. Luckily he has now been able to return to work, following lengthy treatment as a result of his injuries.
“He should never have been told to carry out work in a trench without proper safety precautions being put in place. He was working near a tank containing liquid petroleum gas, which was likely to have underground gas supply pipes.
“What made it worse was that Mr Rowley had to struggle out of the badly-supported trench by himself to put out the flames, as Paul Leonard was not present when the explosion occurred.”