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Company fined £2.3m after workers put at risk of death

A major pipeline transportation company has been fined £2.3 million for safety breaches after its employees were exposed to risk of serious injury and even death while working on a leaking pipeline containing petrol under pressure.

Workers at Exolum Pipeline System Ltd, formerly known as CLH Pipeline System (CLH-PS) Ltd, were excavating a suspected pipeline leak in the woodland near North Lincolnshire, in 2018. The employees were working in an area where a previous repair had taken place.

The risks arising from the excavation work and exposure were significant. An unknown defect on the previous repair of the pipeline which contained petroleum under high pressure had the potential to form a flammable cloud extending over several metres from the work area, causing those in the immediate vicinity to potentially be covered in a heavy spray of petrol and engulfed in petrol vapour. If ignition had occurred before the area could be evacuated, then there would have been a very high risk of death or serious injury.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident found that Exolum Pipeline System Ltd failed to properly identify and control the risks associated with carrying out a pipeline repair.

Exolum Pipeline System Ltd was found guilty of an offence contrary to Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and an offence contrary to Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 following a trial at Crown Court. The company was fined £2.3 million and ordered to pay £157,431 in costs in March 2023.

HSE inspector Mark Leadbetter said: “This incident had the potential to cause serious injury or death to multiple casualties and could so easily have been avoided by simply carrying out correct control measures and safe working practices."

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