Court hands out £1.2m fine after digger ruptures gas pipe

Grant Prior 3 months ago
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A major UK gas distribution company and a Kent based contractor have been fined a total of more than £1.2m after a gas main ignited during repairs injuring two workers.

Folkestone Magistrates Court heard how on 27 May 2016, Southern Gas Network Plc (SGN) employees were called to a gas escape at Thanet Way in Whitstable, Kent.

The gas escape had been caused by employees of Cliffe Contractors Ltd damaging a medium pressure polyethylene gas main during construction work.

During the repair the gas ignited causing injuries to two SGN employees. One worker suffered severe burns while the other sustained cuts and bruises.

An HSE investigation found Cliffe Contractors Ltd had not followed safe digging techniques when excavating around the pipeline resulting in the gas main being damaged by a mechanical excavator.

This led to a significant amount of gas being released. Subsequently, SGN did not follow their own procedures or recognised safe systems of work when repairing the main.

Southern Gas Networks Plc pleaded guilty to safety breaches and was fined £1.2m and ordered to pay costs of £18,975.43.

Cliffe Contractors Ltd of Rochester also pleaded guilty and was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay costs of £12,689.13.

Speaking after the hearing HSE Principal Specialist Inspector Martin Wayland said: “This incident, in which a worker could have easily been killed, could have been avoided if safe excavation by Cliffe Contractors had been carried out and safe mains repair policies had been followed by SGN.

“Both companies were aware of the precautions that were required to be taken.

“Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards”

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