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Piping contractor fined over Onehunga explosion

Media Release

9 April 2014

Piping contractor fined over Onehunga explosion

Piping contractor, Canadian Pacific Limited, has today 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 June 4 2011 and Ian Winson lost both his legs from above the knee in a gas explosion which left another five workers suffering injuries including fractures, head injuries, lacerations, puncture wounds and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Canadian Pacific was found guilty in the Auckland District Court last December, and was today sentenced on charges of failing to take all practicable steps to protect employees and failing to take all practicable steps to protect others.

The judge who heard the case, Judge Ronayne, accepted that 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 which vented along the pipe to the victims.

The Judge found Canadian Pacific had failed to identify the hazard of explosive gas, 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 in the Onehunga water main 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.

“The company should have known of the potential risk and carried out proper atmosphere testing before and during the work,” said Brett Murray.

The Judge found that the charges were proven but there was insufficient proof to find that 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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