Altrincham construction firm fined £30,000 after gas leak sparks fears of explosion in Liverpool city centre (From Messenger Newspapers)
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Altrincham construction firm fined £30,000 after gas leak sparks fears of explosion in Liverpool city centre
AN Altrincham-based construction firm was fined £30,000 due to a major gas leak which caused widespread disruption and sparked fears of an explosion in Liverpool city centre.
Hundreds of people were evacuated from the area around the former Lewis’s department store on January 19 2012, after a gas supply pipe was damaged during demolition work inside the building.
The contractor overseeing the project, Merepark Construction Ltd, based on Garden Lane, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found it had failed to warn the demolition firm about the live gas supply.
Jurors at Liverpool Crown Court were told that Merepark had been hired to work on a multi-million-pound project to convert a building on Ranelagh Street into a new hotel, shops and offices.
A gas supply pipe, which was clearly visible entering the building’s service duct from street level, was damaged by falling debris during demolition work causing a two-inch hole in the pipe.
After one worker smelt gas, the emergency services evacuated the building and surrounding area due to the risk of a major explosion.
The city’s busiest train station, Liverpool Central, was closed for most of the afternoon along with shops and local businesses.
The court was told that Merepark had arranged for the pipes to be disconnected, but had failed to disconnect the gas supply to the meter or to protect the four-inch supply pipe from demolition work.
The company, which is currently in voluntary liquidation, was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £8,490 in prosecution costs on September 12 this year.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Catherine Willars, said: “Merepark was the principal contractor on a major refurbishment project but its safety standards fell way below the legal minimum on this occasion.”
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