Pip­ing firm fined $55,250 over workplace death

DEMM Engineering & Manufacturing - - NEWS -

Pip­ing con­trac­tor, Cana­dian Pa­cific, has been fined $ 55,250 over a 2011 ex­plo­sion in an One­hunga wa­ter pipe that killed one worker and left an­other a dou­ble am­putee.

Philomen Gul­land died on 4 June 2011 and Ian Win­son lost both his legs from above the knee in a gas ex­plo­sion that left an­other five work­ers suf­fer­ing in­juries in­clud­ing frac­tures, head in­juries, and post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der.

Cana­dian Pa­cific was found guilty in the Auck­land District Court in De­cem­ber 2013, and was sen­tenced in May on charges of fail­ing to take all prac­ti­ca­ble steps to pro­tect its staff and fail­ing to take all prac­ti­ca­ble steps to pro­tect oth­ers.

The judge who heard the case, Judge Ron­ayne, ac­cepted it was not pos­si­ble to say with ab­so­lute cer­tainty what caused the ex­plo­sion, but it was likely that nat­u­ral gas leaked from Vec­tor’s gas pipes and mi­grated into the ad­ja­cent wa­ter pipe while it was drain­ing.

Weld­ing car­ried out by Cana­dian Pa­cific em­ploy­ees in a cham­ber at­tached to the wa­ter pipe ig­nited the gas and caused an ex­plo­sion that vented along the pipe to the vic­tims.

Judge Ron­ayne found Cana­dian Pa­cific had failed to iden­tify the haz­ard, did not carry out at­mos­phere test­ing or mon­i­tor­ing ei­ther prior to or dur­ing ‘hot­work’ (such as weld­ing) and did not in­struct its em­ploy­ees to fol­low Water­care Ser­vices’ re­stricted area pro­ce­dure.

WorkSafe’s gen­eral man­ager of in­ves­ti­ga­tions, Brett Mur­ray, said the ex­plo­sion was a tragic re­minder of the risk of work­ing in ar­eas where there is po­ten­tially an ex­plo­sive at­mos­phere and the im­por­tance of proper mon­i­tor­ing and plan­ning.

“Cana­dian Pa­cific had a duty to seek out and mon­i­tor haz­ards. It should have iden­ti­fied the po­ten­tial haz­ard of ex­plo­sive gas and planned to deal with it ap­pro­pri­ately,” he said.

The Judge found the charges were proven but there was in­suf­fi­cient proof to find the fail­ures by Cana­dian Pa­cific caused the ex­plo­sion. Repa­ra­tion was there­fore not or­dered.

Water­care Ser­vices, which con­tracted Cana­dian Pa­cific to con­duct the work on the wa­ter main, was last year fined $ 81,000 and or­dered to pay repa­ra­tions of $ 315,000 over the same in­ci­dent.

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