Posted 2 September 2014

Client us gas blast thumb

During May 2014, a Housing Developer and a Local Authority were each fined a combined 40,000 GBP as a result of Gas Main Strikes in Dunfermline and in Norton Fitzwarren, near Taunton.

The service strike near Taunton closed the railway line in October 2012, causing more misery to commuters in the South West.

The Housing Development Company had, according the HSE, "neglected to contact the utility owners to obtain up-to-date plans of the site. As a result safe digging techniques were not being used because no-one on site had reason to believe they were working anywhere near a gas pipe".

A Desktop Mapping Study, whereby GEOTEC Surveys obtain and collate Statutory Undertakers Records onto a single AutoCAD/ PDF output, would have alerted the Housing Developer to the presence of Gas crossing their site.

The court also heard how a consortium of house builders was engaged in a long-term development and that several different sub-contractors had worked there over a number of years.

This provides an example where the client, architect, QS, Consultant, CDMC and various different contractors did not take responsibility for ensuring unknown buried hazards were identified as part of the works.

In Dunfermline, the Local Authority's own employees were carrying out drainage works, who ruptured an underground gas pipe releasing almost four tonnes of gas, resulting in all properties, including a Primary School, being evacuated for five hours.

The HSE found a number of failings, one of which was "failing to refer to utility plans showing the location of underground services and failing to use devices or hand tools to locate underground services".

In this instance the Council may have benefitted from an onsite Underground Mapping Survey for Buried Services and Utilities. A comprehensive survey using Radio Frequency, Cover Lifting and Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), with findings topographically referenced to above ground hard features would have provided value for money, following this incident.

In both episodes luckily no-one was injured, however disruption was caused to the Local Residents, Businesses, a local Primary School, the Public and Rail Commuters, as well as to the projects themselves.

Can we expect to see more instances like this, with the pending removal of the CDM Co-ordinator?

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