Morgan Sindall has been fined £50,000 after a serious blaze in Leeds lead to the evacuation of six homes and closure of a major road

Fire Engine

Leeds Crown Court heard yesterday (31 July) that numerous safety failing by Morgan Sindall’s infrastructure divisions and Leeds-based Northern Gas Networks Operations, known as United Utilities at the time, led to welding work on a gas main sparking a fire that sent 20-foot flames into the sky.

Three workers had to flee to escape. Six homes had to be evacuated and fire crews used water jets to protect nearby properties.

The fire brigade was on the scene for more than ten hours until the fire was under control and the ring road was closed for two days.

The incident occurred on 3 September 2010 as part of a major construction project on the Ring Road at Beeston.

The court heard that the two firms both neglected basic safety measures when a new section of gas mains needed to be installed.

The court heard that the gas mains had not been adequately isolated and sparks from the hot welding work ignited the escaping gas.

Northern Gas Networks Operations was fined £35,000 and ordered to pay £8,453 in costs. Morgan Sindall (Infrastructure) was fined £50,000 with £12,900 in costs.

HSE Inspector Ian Redshaw said: “Someone could have been killed or badly injured in this incident. Thankfully no one was hurt, but this was a severe fire that was a danger to workers and local people.

“There were numerous failings by both companies in the planning, organisation and execution of the work - most importantly the failure to consider and control the risks associated with welding near live gas mains.

“When undertaking high hazard activities such as this, it is essential that the proper steps are taken to ensure that risks are fully considered and then controlled.

“This type of activity is regularly undertaken in the gas industry and all the safety practices are well established and common knowledge in the industry. Thankfully incidents are rare, but if they do occur the consequences can be devastating.”