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Gas Leak Explosion Averted At Liverpool Central Village Development

Engineers working on gas pipes
16th September 2013

"Oversight, error or wilful negligence can all lead to both minor and serious accidents in the workplace, sometimes leading to a fatal outcome or, at very least, an accident compensation claim against the employer.

Hardly a week passes without a case being brought to court where a company employer has been found negligent of not complying with their legal duty to protect their workforce from unguarded machinery or hazardous conditions due to a lack of proper risk assessment, training and supervision.

Where the utilities of electricity and gas are involved, the consequences of any minor failure to observe the most stringent of safety procedures, will almost always lead to a devastating loss of life and destruction of property through fire or explosion.

According to RIDDOR, between 2011 and 2012, there was a total of 333 non fatalities and a further 202 incidents ( explosions, fires or carbon monoxide poisoning) involving the supply and use of flammable gas.

Liverpool city centre was the scene of a potentially lethal scenario where, luckily, emergency services were able to prevent significant potential damage being caused by a building’s gas supply, which had failed to be disconnected or protected.

The incident occurred at the multi-million-pound development of the former Lewis's department store area on Ranelagh Street into Central Village with a new hotel, shops and offices.

Damaged gas supply pipe...

A “live” gas supply pipe, which was clearly visible entering the building's service duct from street level, was damaged by falling debris during demolition work, which caused a two-inch hole in the pipe. The project contractor had arranged for the pipes to be disconnected but had 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.

Following a strong smell of gas being reported and the imminent risk of a major explosion. the emergency services evacuated the building and surrounding area, including Liverpool Central station. According to a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector, "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...”

At Liverpool Magistrates' Court, the project contractors, currently in voluntary liquidation, were found guilty and fined a total of £ 38,490 (inc. costs) for two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by failing to ensure the safety of workers or the public."