UK Company Fined $1.5 Million After Gas Main Fire

Two workers were injured, with one suffering severe burns, when a gas main ignited while they were trying to repair a leak.

A major UK gas distribution company and a construction company have been fined for an incident where a gas main ignited while it was being repaired on May 27, 2016. Two workers were injured, one of them suffering severe burns, the Health and Safety Executive reported.

Southern Gas Network Plc employees were called to a gas leak in Kent. The leak was caused by employees of Cliffe Contractors Ltd who damaged a medium-pressure polyethylene gas main during construction work. During the repair by Southern Gas Networks, the gas ignited, causing the workers' injuries. The less seriously injured worker sustained cuts and bruises.

An HSE investigation found Cliffe Contractors Ltd had not followed safe digging techniques when excavating around the pipeline, and that SGN did not follow its own procedures or a safe work plan while repairing the gas main. Southern Gas Networks Plc had pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 at an earlier hearing; it was fined £1.2 million (about $1.5 million in U.S. dollars) and ordered to pay costs of £18,975.43. Cliffe Contractors Ltd also had pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 at an earlier hearing; it was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay costs of £12,689.13.

"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," said HSE Principal Specialist Inspector Martin Wayland. "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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