Two workmen were given the task of repairing a leaking overhead gas pipe. The pipe was one of the main gas supplies for the central power station, and initially the hole was small enough to be filled with a bung and resin. However, the repair work was put on hold after the hole grew to the size of a fist, and a new technique would have to be used.
The alternative plan was to secure a fabricated metal plate to the outside of the pipe, yet when one of the workmen started drilling into the pipe, a spark ignited live gas within the pipe, causing a stream of flames to propel from the hole in the pipe.
Only minor injuries were sustained by one of the workers, but needless to say, they both had a lucky escape. It was only when the emergency services arrived that the gas supply was isolated and the rest of the site was secured.
Tata Steel UK was taken to court and were found guilty of two separate charges of endangering the lives of employees. They were fined £30,000 and additional £1,696 in court costs.
On hearing the outcome of the trial, HSE inspector, John Moran, commented:
“Those responsible for managing safety should not ignore dangerous occurrences of this nature. Even where serious injuries are avoided, the root cause of the near miss should be thoroughly investigated, understood, and appropriate action taken. By doing this industry can prevent unnecessary incidents where the outcome might not be so favourable for those involved.”