Demolition contractors damaged gas main causing major leak
Merepark Construction Ltd has been prosecuted over a major gas leak which caused widespread disruption and sparked fears of an explosion in Liverpool city centre.
Hundreds of people were evacuated from the area around a former department store on 19 January 2012 after a gas supply pipe was damaged during demolition work inside the building. The company failed to warn the demolition contractor about the live gas supply.
The gas supply pipe (which was clearly visible entering the building service duct at street level) was damaged by falling debris during demolition work causing a two-inch hole in the pipe.
Liverpool Magistrates heard that the defendant company was the Principal contractor on the multi-million-pound project to convert the building into a new hotel, shops and offices as part of the Central Village development.
Emergency services evacuated the building and surrounding area due to the risk of a major explosion and city’s busiest train station was closed.
Merepark Construction arranged for disconnection of gas pipes after the meter into the building but failed to take any action to either disconnect the gas supply to the meter or to protect the four-inch supply pipe from demolition work.
Single spark could have triggered major explosion in city centre
Merepark Construction Ltd, of Garden Lane in Altrincham, was found guilty of two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by failing to ensure the safety of workers or the public following a trial at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court.
The company, which is currently in voluntary liquidation, was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £8,490 in prosecution costs.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Catherine Willars said:
“The gas supply pipe could clearly be seen entering the service duct from the street but Merepark Construction failed to take any action to disconnect it, protect it from falling rubble or to warn the demolition firm of the dangers.
A single spark could have set alight the leaking gas and caused a major explosion in the city centre, with the potential to put dozens of lives at risk.
“Luckily the emergency services’ response worked effectively and they were able to prevent an explosion but the incident caused significant disruption and hit the income of local businesses.
Merepark was the principal contractor on a major refurbishment project but its safety standards fell way below the legal minimum on this occasion.”