Labourer was engulfed by fireball

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A 43-year old labourer’s clothes were set on fire in an incident at Macclesfield Town FC’s training ground in Knutsford, Cheshire, on 18th September 2009 after a colleague using an excavator fractured an underground liquid petroleum gas (LPG) pipe in the trench he was standing in. He sustained burns to his face, neck and arms, the gas had been immediately ignited because the accident victim was using a power tool in the trench to remove damaged pipework from a tank. He rolled on the grass to extinguish his burning clothes.
The labourer’s employer was contracted at Egerton Youth Club on Mereheath Lane in Knutsford to repair a septic tank, and had arranged for a trench to be dug out to gain access. When the accident occurred the employer had left the workers unsupervised, he had also failed to consider that gas pipework might be present, and did not ensure the gas supply was isolated before starting work. The trench was not supported and there was no means of access to the trench, eg a ladder.
At Macclesfield Magistrates’ Court the employer was found guilty of a breach of r.13(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007*. He had failed to plan, manage and monitor the construction work safely, and was fined £2,500 with £3,500 in costs.
An HSE official commented: “The accident victim could easily have been killed in the gas explosion. Luckily he has now been able to return to work, following lengthy treatment as a result of his injuries. He should never have been told to carry out work in a trench without proper safety precautions being put in place. He was working near a tank containing liquid petroleum gas, which was likely to have underground gas supply pipes. What made it worse was that he had to struggle out of the badly-supported trench by himself to put out the flames, as his employer was not present when the explosion occurred.”

*Regulation 13(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 states: “Every contractor shall plan, manage and monitor construction work carried out by him or under his control in a way which ensures that, so far as is reasonably practicable, it is carried out without risks to health and safety.”

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