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£4 million fine for National Grid Gas over missing high-rise buildings records

National Grid Gas plc has been fined £4 million for failing to ensure its records relating to gas risers in some high-rise multi-occupancy buildings were up to date.

Liverpool Crown Court previously heard that, in June 2017, the HSE requested information from gas distribution network (GDN) companies about their management of gas networks in high-rise multiple-occupancy buildings (HRMOBs).

At the time, National Grid Gas operated the nationwide gas transmission system and the gas distribution systems supplying gas to around half the UK’s domestic and industrial gas customers, including the gas pipes in HRMOBs.

However, in 2016 National Grid Gas sold part of its operations to Cadent Gas Ltd, including the activities to which the failings relate. HSE’s investigation revealed that the records that National Grid Gas transferred to Cadent when it sold its gas networks were incomplete. There had been no audits or reviews when the records issue came to light in December 2017. This meant that Cadent was continuing to inspect only the buildings on the existing database.

Cadent’s management records were found to be incomplete: details about 769 buildings were missing, which meant that the gas risers in these HRMOBs had not been surveyed, inspected or had any routine maintenance for a number of years.

Additionally, the investigation found that National Grid Gas had failed to ensure that 112 HRMOBs had pipeline isolation valves (PIVs) so that gas to these buildings could be isolated in the event of an incident.

As a result of this, HSE undertook a criminal investigation that considered the risk to which residents and members of the public were exposed. Enforcement notices were issued in April 2018 requiring Cadent to take remedial action. Cadent took appropriate action and complied with the notices by September 2018.

National Grid Gas plc, of 1-3 Strand, London, WC2N 5EH, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 on 06 November 2020. This month (February 2021), the company was fined £4 million at Liverpool Crown Court and ordered to pay costs of £91,805.

After the hearing, HM principal inspector for HSE, Julie Voce said: “This case had wide-ranging implications. Our investigations found that people living and working in the high-rise buildings where the failings took place were not protected from the risk of gas leaks.

“National Grid Gas did not have a robust system for recording the details of the gas pipes within these buildings. Opportunities arose where National Grid Gas identified data errors, but these were never satisfactorily acted upon, and opportunities to correct the situation were missed.

“This sentence reflects how important it is when companies are charged with ensuring records that could keep people safe and well are up to date, that they make that task a priority.”

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