Fatal gas explosion could have ‘easily been avoided’

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An asbestos removal contractor has been fined £150,000 after a worker was killed after he cut through a live gas pipe which the company had failed to isolate.

On 5 October 2017, the worker and a colleague were removing a boiler and pipework, and overspraying walls to remove asbestos residue, at the derelict Newmains pastoral centre in Wishaw, North Lanarkshire, Scotland.

Work was being carried out prior to demolition. The plan was to cut the boiler and pipework into sections to make it easier to remove. However, the gas supply had not been isolated and the workers cut through the live gas outlet pipe. The gas ignited causing an explosion.

Enviraz (Scotland) Limited was fined £150,000 for the incident in 2017. Photograph: Twitter

Both workers received extensive burns to their body, requiring surgery. One of the employees died in hospital several days after the incident.

Hamilton Sheriff’s Court heard from HSE that the risk assessment and plan of work for the job had identified the boiler room had some running services. However, the company failed to ensure the gas pipe was isolated and purged of gas before work began.

Enviraz (Scotland) Limited of Hillington Business Park, Glasgow pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The company was fined £150,000.

Speaking after the hearing, investigating HSE inspector Helen Diamond said: “This incident could so easily have been avoided if the company had ensured that the gas pipe in the boiler room had been isolated and purged prior to removal. Within the asbestos licensing permissioning regime, HSE expects licensed contractors to have adequate management arrangements in place to control non-asbestos risks.

“Given the potential consequences of using a power tool on live or unpurged pipework, the management system to establish the status of the pipework needs to be robust and there should be written confirmation of isolation," she added. 

“Tragically, one man has lost his life as a result of this incident and a second worker has sustained life-changing injuries.”


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