Canadian Pacific Ltd guilty over death

Last updated 13:27 10/12/2013

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An engineering firm has been found guilty over a fatal explosion at an Auckland pipeline.

In a decision released today, Auckland District Court Judge Rob Ronayne said Canadian Pacific Limited (CPL), a specialist piping contractor, failed to ensure the safety of its employees.

Canadian mother-of-two Philomen Gulland, 48, died in the blast in Onehunga on June 4 2011 while working for Watercare, an Auckland Council-controlled organisation.

Gulland's colleague, engineer Ian Winson, lost both his legs in the explosion and several other workers were injured.

Judge Ronayne said CPL failed to identify the explosive gas hazard, carry out atmospheric testing and instruct employees to follow restricted-area procedures.

"Because the monitoring was never carried out it is impossible to come to any conclusion as to causation [of the explosion] and in any event I am not required to,." he said.

There was insufficient proof that the failures caused the explosion, he said.

CPL would be sentenced at a date to be set.

The company had pleaded not guilty in September to the two health and safety charges laid by the Department of Labour.

CPL was contracted by Watercare to repair a leaky valve chamber on a water pipe, taking advantage of the pipe being drained while Watercare was simultaneously upgrading the Auckland water system.

While the valve was being repaired, four Watercare inspectors, including Gulland and Winson, had entered a pipe 500 metres from where CPL was working.

Their personal gas alarms sounded and the group exited the pipe and used a fan to ventilate it.

Gulland and Winson had just re-entered the pipe before the explosion. Gulland died at the scene.

The law did not require complete protection from harm but required all reasonably practicable steps to prevent the hazard.

CPL had argued there was nothing that could have be done to avoid the harm to their employees or anyone else.

Watercare Services Limited have already been convicted and sentenced in respect of the same incident. It was fined $81,000 and ordered to pay $315,000 in reparations to the victims of the blast.

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- Fairfax Media

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