Gas explosion builder cleared of health and safety breaches

Bromley-by-Bow Gasholders, London

Magistrates in Salisbury have cleared a builder of health and safety breaches, after a gas explosion at the property on which his company worked.

The block of flats was partly destroyed leaving the tenant with 87% burns after a gas explosion in his home. Kyle Roe was in an induced coma for seven weeks and underwent 13 skin grafts.

The explosion at the four storey property in Chippenham, Wiltshire happened in 2017, when Mr Roe switched on a light, igniting gas that had built up behind a wall. A gas pipe had been sawn off, but left uncapped during work to remove the gas supply to the upper storeys of the property, while leaving the supply intact to heat the ground floor shop.

Leaving the supply uncapped had caused gas to build up.

Roderick Standing was a director of Longwood Building Ltd, which had been working on the redevelopment of the property during its conversion into flats in 2014. The building was owned by the widow of a former High Court judge, Francis Ferris, and the renovations were overseen by the project manager of Humberts, a company known since as Prestige EA Ltd.

Mr Standing denied breaching health and safety law and was cleared of breaching section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He said his company had worked on the boiler and radiators but not on other parts of the old heating system, which he understood to already be disconnected.

The court found that it could not be certain who had disconnected the gas supply, or who was responsible for leaving the pipe uncapped.

The Health & Safety Executive did succeed in prosecuting Prestige EA Ltd on other matters as part of the case. Health and safety breaches over failing to carry out the correct type of asbestos survey were admitted by the now-liquidated company, which failed to plan, manage and monitor construction work to prevent persons from being exposed to risks associated with asbestos.

The company pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay a fine of £2,000 and £3,120 court costs and surcharge. However, as the company had gone into liquidation with £30 million of unsecured creditors, the court fines would come out of a fund of £54,500 and be unlikely ever to be paid.