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MASSIVE GAS EXPLOSION CULPRIT ESCAPES JUSTICE

Shoddy work by fitter combines with prior error to cause blast

A gas fitter has been prosecuted following a major explosion in Manchester which injured ten adults and five children, left a 73-year-old woman with severe burns and destroyed three houses in November 2010.

Manchester Crown Court heard (15 April) that at 7.15am on the day of the explosion Marie Burns turned on her gas hob and remembers seeing a flash as her house exploded around her. 

HSE investigators found that Paul Kay carried out work at the property the day before the explosion as part of a project to install new kitchens in several houses on the Irlam estate.

He disconnected the gas meter and rested it on a stack of 6 bricks before reconnecting the gas supply. The court was told this left the meter insecure and increased the risk of a gas leak.

Forensic examination of the gas pipes revealed that a lead pipe leading to the meter had been connected to a brass pipe several years earlier by means of a piece of metal solder 2.5mm wide. This left the joint in a fundamentally weak condition and was identified as another cause of the explosion. When this work took place and who carried it out could not be established thereby preventing a separate prosecution against the person responsible.

The investigation concluded that when Mr Kay left the gas meter unsupported on a pile bricks, this may have widened a fracture in the joint and allowed gas to slowly seep into the property overnight.

Registered gas engineers can expect to be held account for their actions

Paul Kay, of Warrington, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 7(1) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 by failing to make sure the gas meter was properly supported. He was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £500 in prosecution costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Philip Strickland said:

“Paul Kay’s actions increased the risk of the explosion, which destroyed three houses, damaged several others and injured 15 people, including Marie Burns.

The weak connection on the pipes leading to the gas meter meant there had been a risk of a gas leak at the property for several years, and the person responsible for that work would also have been prosecuted if we had been able to identify them.

However, Paul Kay increased the risk of an explosion when he decided to rest the meter on a pile of bricks, rather than properly securing it to the wall or a raised platform on the floor.

If registered gas engineers do not meet their legal duties they can expect to be held account for their actions. They must apply their knowledge and skills on every job and make sure appliances and supplies are left safe for people to use.”

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