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Companies Fined After Auckland Gas Explosion

Companies Fined $18,000 After Auckland Gas Explosion

Two Auckland companies have been sentenced to pay a total of $18,000 after a gas explosion on the North Shore last year injured several workers and forced the evacuation of homes.

The explosion happened in May last year after a natural gas main was ruptured during the laying of a telecommunications cable. Several workers suffered burns to their face and neck. One worker was hospitalised for 11 days while the others were treated and discharged the same day. As a result of the gas leak, approximately 20 houses in the area were evacuated and the area cordoned off.

The first company Northpower, pleaded guilty to charges brought by the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Service for failing to ensure the safety of its four employees and also to a charge relating to endangering people in the vicinity of the place of work. Northpower was fined $3000 on each charge (total $6000). This company was not held responsible for the injury sustained by the workers but were responsible for rupturing the gas line in the first instance.

In sentencing yesterday, Judge Morris said the company was in control of the place of work at the time the gas main was ruptured.

The failure to take the practicable step of physically locating the natural gas pipeline meant the company failed to ensure the safety of both the employees and those in the vicinity of the workplace.

A second company, United Networks Limited, also pleaded guilty to a charge relating to using an unsafe method of carrying out the repair work. The decision to carry out the repair work by bringing in a diesel operated digger to excavate over the gas leak was contrary to the company's own policy. The failure to ensure company policy was followed resulted in an unsafe method of carrying out the repair work.

United Networks Limited were convicted and fined $12000 as they were one of the parties responsible for the decision to carry out the gas repair work by using a digger to excavate over the live gas.

One of the injured workers was awarded the whole of United Networks Limited sentence, $12000.

A third company involved, Ace Gas Maintenance Corporation Limited, has pleaded not guilty and is set down for a status hearing on March 18 2002.


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