A utilities firm has been fined £1.2m after two employees were injured when a gas main that had been ruptured by a contractor ignited.
Folkstone Magistrates’ Court was told that Cliffe Contractors Ltd damaged a medium-pressure polyethylene gas main during construction work on 27 May 2016.
The incident was reported to Southern Gas Networks (SGN), whose employees were called out to investigate the gas escape at Thanet Way in Whitstable, Kent.
During the repair by Southern Gas Networks, the gas ignited causing the injuries to two SGN employees. One worker suffered severe burns while the other sustained cuts and bruises.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found that Cliffe Contractors had not followed safe digging techniques when excavating around the pipeline, resulting in the gas main being damaged by a mechanical excavator.
HSE said a significant amount of gas was released by the rupture. However, the investigation found that SGN did not follow their own procedures or recognised safe systems of work when staff came to repair the main.
Southern Gas Networks plc of Station Approach, Horley, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
It was fined £1.2m and ordered to pay costs of £18,975.43.
Cliffe Contractors Ltd of Anthony’s Way, Rochester, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
It was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay costs of £12,689.13.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE principal specialist inspector Martin Wayland said: “This incident, in which a worker could have easily been killed, could have been avoided if safe excavation by Cliffe Contractors had been carried out and safe mains repair policies had been followed by SGN.
“Both companies were aware of the precautions that were required to be taken.
“Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”