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DEMOLITION CONTRACTOR FINED

Lack of checks causes gas escape, fire and shopping centre closure

Demolition contractor Keltbray Ltd has been ordered by the courts to pay over £35k in fines and prosecutions costs after an incident in August 2006. Keltbray were principal contractors for the refurbishment of a retail unit within the Queensmere Shopping Centre in Slough and failed to ensure that all services were isolated before the sub-contractor cut through a live gas pipe causing a fire. 

HSE Inspector, Karen Morris, said: “Companies need clear, manageable and reliable systems to ensure that people are not put at risk in these situations. In this case, the subcontractor was given a document confirming that it was safe to carry out the pipe-cutting work, but reasonable checks had not been made and the pipe was in fact live. Fortunately no one was injured, although the incident caused a significant risk to the safety of site workers and members of the public. The outcome could have been much more serious.”

Comment: There are simple steps that can be taken to avoid damaging the gas supply system during construction work. The key precautions include: obtaining plans from the pipeline operator; locating the line of the pipes using suitable locating devices; contacting the pipeline operator where pipes operate at pressures of 2 bar and above; briefing workers on location of pipes and precautions and; safe digging practices e.g. not using mechanical excavators within 500mm of a gas pipe.

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