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Fife Council Fined 24k After Ruptured Gas Pipeline Leads To Mass Evacuation

By Kevin Burke
1st May, 2014

Fife Council received a £24,000 fine after its workers released nearly four tonnes of gas when they accidentally ruptured a gas pipeline.

In a hearing at Dunfermline Sheriff Court on May 1st, the council pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, sections 2 and 3.  Section 2 (1) states that employers should take all "reasonably practicable" steps to ensure the health, safety and workplace welfare of their employees, while section 3 (1) states that employers are obliged to conduct their undertakings in a safe way to ensure that people who are not in their employment but who can be affected by it are not exposed to health and safety risks.

The hearing related to an incident on June 11th 2010 that saw around 100 households and businesses and one primary school evacuated. Fortunately, nobody was injured, although people's health and wellbeing was put in jeopardy.

The court heard that drainage works were being performed by Fife Council employees on the Milesmark Depot in the Carnock region. The employees were not supervised, and although it had been decided that a particular area should not have been excavated, the workers decided to dig a new trench in this area.

They used a mechanical digger and a hand-held power tool to dig the hole. Although they exposed whinstone dust, which indicates that pipework is nearby, they continued to excavate the area. In the course of doing so, the mechanical digger made contact with a six-inch pressure main and broke open a gas valve.

The incident was immediately reported and the workers fled the area. Scottish Gas Networks and the emergency services arrived on the scene, and all buildings in the area were evacuated for a total of five hours while the issue was resolved and the pipeline was repaired.

Subsequently, the Health and Safety Executive investigated the incident and the factors that led to it. They uncovered a series of failings, including:

Mac Young, HSE Inspector, described the incident as both easy to prevent and completely foreseeable.

He said that the dangers of excavation work are "well known", and that guidance notes that mechanical excavators and power tools should not be used near to underground services.

247 Home Rescue - gas boiler breakdown cover

It is "down more to luck than judgement" that there was no property damage or injuries as a result of Fife Council's health and safety failings, Mr Young added.

 

 

This article was written on behalf of boiler breakdown cover business 247 Home Rescue.

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