The Leading News & Information Service For The Facilities, Workplace & Built Environment Community

Laing O’Rourke Guilty of 'Highly Dangerous Situation'

27 March 2015 | Updated 01 January 1970

Laing O’Rourke Construction Ltd has been fined for causing a major gas leak at what was the University Hospital of North Staffordshire (now called Royal Stoke University Hospital) on 8 January 2014 during work to create a new car park and install new drains.

An excavator struck a buried plastic gas pipe, causing significant damage to the pipe and a large release of gas. The hospital declared a major incident and set up an exclusion zone around the pipe which included the main internal road through the hospital’s grounds, causing traffic chaos on surrounding roads. It took 90 minutes to stop the leak, during which time a significant quantity of gas was released into the atmosphere.

Stafford Magistrates’ Court was told that the pipe fed an energy centre that provided 90% of the hospital’s heating. Fortunately, the energy centre was duel fuel and engineers were able to quickly switch the heating supply to oil.

A Health and Safety Executive investigation found that Laing O’Rourke had failed to implement a safe system of work and follow relevant guidance for safe digging when dealing with buried underground services. HSE guidance states that the position of plastic (PE) gas pipes should be located by hand digging before mechanical excavation begins. It also states that mechanical excavators should not be used within 500mm of a buried gas pipe.

Dartford based Laing O’Rourke Construction was fined £14,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,723 after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 34(3) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

“As a large, experienced construction company, Laing O’Rourke were well aware of the relevant guidance on dealing with underground services,” said Andrew Bowker, HSE Inspector, speaking after the hearing. “On this occasion there was a general breakdown in the company’s comprehensive health and safety procedures for preventing such an incident.”

Mr Bowker went on to state that Laing O’Rourke had failed to suitably plan and monitor the work, hand dig trial holes to locate a known gas pipe, have a suitable exclusion zone between the excavator and the pipe and use safe digging methods to expose the pipe.

“The result was a highly dangerous situation that had the potential to expose construction workers, hospital staff, patients and visitors to an initial flash fire and subsequent fire and explosion risk,” concluded Mr Bowker.

Picture:    Laing O’Rourke Construction was guilty of causing a major gas leak at the former University Hospital of North Staffordshire (now called Royal Stoke University Hospital) during work to create a new car park and install drains. 

Article written by Mike Gannon | Published 27 March 2015


Related Tags

Related Articles

Interserve Fined ÂŁ4.4m for Failure to Keep Staff Details Secure

The UK’s IT security watchdog has fined Interserve for breaching data protection law and failing to prevent a cyber attack. The Information Commissioner’s...

 Read Full Article
TfL Fines Thames Water for Unsafe Streetworks

Thames Water has been fined £100,000 for four safety streetworks related offences committed on the Transport for London Road...

 Read Full Article
Million Pound Fine for Breaching F-Gas Regulations Handed to London Firm

London-based firm IMO Gas Supplies Ltd has been found guilty of seven separate offences all linked to breaches of regulation 31A of the Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases...

 Read Full Article
Health and Safety Breach Fines 142% Higher Than Compliance Costs

SMEs that defy health and safety regulations could face a fine 142 per cent higher than the yearly cost of complying with the measures. Analysts at health and...

 Read Full Article
Airline Company Guilty For Unsafe Operation of Passenger Lift

Flybe, the airline company, was sentenced on 4 February 2020 for the unsafe operation of a passenger lift. Meanwhile, a number of other firms have found themselves...

 Read Full Article
Newnham College Cambridge Lands Asbestos Failings Fine

Newnham College Cambridge has been fined for failings that exposed employees and subcontractors to asbestos during refurbishment of a flat owned by the...

 Read Full Article
Support Service Company Fined For Brain Injury Fall

A company providing a range of airline ground support services has been fined after an employee fell from a height of more than two metres - suffering fractures and a...

 Read Full Article
School Gets Hard Knock With Fire Conviction

A prestigious Wakefield school and former fire risk assessor have been fined after admitting fire safety offences across educational premises. The conviction was first...

 Read Full Article
Chemical Co Convicted At Christmas

Just before Christmas, a chemical company (LMA Services Ltd) was sentenced for breaches that led to a fire. Meanwhile, a fall from height has cost Sir Robert McAlpine...

 Read Full Article
Places For People Places People In Danger

A property management and development organisation has been fined after a number of employees developed Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome. Aylesbury Crown Court heard that...

 Read Full Article