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DEVELOPER FINED OVER MASSIVE GAS MAIN STRIKE BLAST

Gas explosion during major conversion destroyed dozens of Manchester homes

PJ Livesey Group Ltd  has been fined £100k following a major gas explosion in December 2009. A workman suffered burns to his hands and face and about an hour later leaked gas ignited causing an explosion that destroyed a large part of the site.

Manchester Crown Court heard (29 Nov) that the former Withington Hospital building was being converted into houses and apartments when a six-inch gas pipe in an underground tunnel was severed.

The emergency services evacuated residents from hundreds of homes. Businesses, schools, a hospital, health units and a police station also had to be evacuated. The Urban Search and Rescue team was brought in to search the rubble to see if anyone was trapped.

Debris from the site landed on a nearby Primary School.

Principal contractor PJ Livesey Group had a diagram from National Grid during the planning stages of the project showing a gas main running into the site. However, a detailed survey was not carried out to establish the pipe location. Workers on the site were wrongly told the gas pipes had been decommissioned.

Firms must understand dangers before work starts

PJ Livesey Group Ltd pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 after failing to ensure people’s safety. The company, of Beacon Road West in Trafford Park, was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £21,404.

After the hearing, Thomas Merry, the investigating inspector at HSE, said:

“This was a major incident that led to a massive emergency response and significant disruption to the neighbourhood. It was only luck that more people weren’t seriously injured or even killed in the explosion.

It was unacceptable for PJ Livesey Group to allow the work to go ahead without checking that the gas supply had been properly disconnected. What’s worse is that the company actually had a National Grid document showing a gas main entering the site.

A simple check would have identified it as being live, and avoided months of disruption and heartache for those residents who lost their homes.

Construction companies involved in the refurbishment or demolition of buildings must make sure they know what potential dangers they’re dealing with before they allow work to start.”

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