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Council fined after hundreds of lives were put at risk

A primary school and over one hundred homes and businesses were evacuated when workers from Fife Council struck and ruptured an underground gas pipe, releasing almost four tonnes of gas.

What happened?

On the day of the incident, drainage works were being carried out by employees of Fife council. The employees, who were unsupervised at the time, were excavating a new trench, unaware that a decision had been taken the day before not to dig in that particular area.

Using a hand held power tool and a mechanical digger, the workers exposed whinstone dust; an early indicator of gas or water pipes close by. Despite the warning, they continued the excavation which resulted in striking and rupturing a gas valve on a six-inch pressure main.

The surrounding area was immediately evacuated, and the incident was reported. Houses, businesses, and a local primary school were evacuated for five hours while the damage was repaired.

What was the outcome?

Fife Council pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act, and was fined a total of £24,000.

HSE Inspector, Mac Young, said:

“This incident was both entirely foreseeable and easily preventable.
Fife Council’s failures all related to inadequate risk assessment,
lack of safe systems of work and a breakdown principally of
the supervision of those employees involved.

“Thankfully, no-one was injured, nor was there any damage to property.
That, however, is down more to luck than judgement.”

If you have been affected by an incident such as this, and you would like expert advice, contact Hampson Hughes Solicitors today on 0800 888 6888 or email

Source: View article

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