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    PUBLIC AND WORKER RISK PROMPTS £1 MILLION FINE

    Firm failed to follow own risk management processes and procedures

    National Grid Gas (Plc) has been fined £1 million after a gas main ruptured during repair work trapping a workman and triggering a massive gas release in June 2014.

    The company was supervising repairs to a gas mains in Scunthorpe when pressure behind the escaping gas increased and ruptured the pipeline. A workman was trapped between two gas pipes after one of them burst.

    The fire service worked in “zero visibility” for an hour to rescue the trapped engineer as escaping gas created a “cloud of dust and debris” around the excavation. The worker was wearing breathing apparatus which undoubtedly saved his life.

    The road was closed to traffic and local residents were evacuated for fear of an explosion. It took three hours before the gas was brought under control and the pipe repaired.

    Errors in communicating with contractors

    Sheffield Crown Court was told of a number of failings by National Grid Gas (Plc) including:

    • not complying with its own gas escape procedures;
    • not carrying out sufficient risk assessments;
    • not communicating effectively with contractors carrying out the work; and
    • not managing the handover of key personnel.

    On 25th January 2016 the company was fined £1 million and ordered to pay costs of £26,296 for breaching Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

    HSE Inspector Ian Redshaw, said:

    “This incident could easily have become a fatality. National Grid Gas (Plc) failed to follow its own processes and carry out sufficient risk assessments to protect  workers and the sub-contractors fixing the leak.

    This whole incident should act as a stark warning to all those involved in hazardous work – you can have all the written policies in place but it you do not follow them, if you do not carry out the risk assessments for the task, people could die.”

    Group Manager Steve Fraser of Humberside Fire and Rescue Service recalls the incident and the difficulties the crews faced:

    “The priority when we arrived was the injured man, and getting him out of immediate danger. The visibility was virtually zero due to air being dense with gas and dust, and the man had been working 10 feet below ground. The crews put themselves in a position which showed courage and bravery of the highest order. They were dealing with gas of an unknown quantity with potential for another explosion. They used pneumatic bags to prise the pipes apart and release his legs, all done in demanding circumstances.”

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