Watercare and Canadian Pacific to be prosecuted, Natural gas not involved

Philomen Gulland

A Watercare press release has been quick to state that the company is to be prosecuted alongside Canadian Pacific in relation the the Onenhunga blast, in which Canadian born engineer and mother of two Philomen Gulland was tragically killed, six other people were injured in the blast.

Watercare and Canadian Pacific to be prosecuted following gas explosion

“The Department of Labour has today confirmed it is prosecuting Watercare Services Limited and one of its contractors, Canadian Pacific Limited, following the 4 June 2011 gas explosion at Onehunga, Auckland.

One Watercare employee died and several other people were injured in the accident which occurred when a watermain that had been removed from service was being inspected.

The Department of Labour has advised Watercare that five charges have been laid against two parties alleging health and safety failures.

The parties are: Watercare Services Ltd, Auckland’s water and wastewater service provider, and Canadian Pacific Ltd, a specialist piping contractor based in East Tamaki.

Mark Ford, the chief executive of Watercare, said today:

“This was a tragic accident and we are committed to ensuring all possible lessons are learned.

“We have always had a strong focus on workplace health and safety and prior to this incident we had an 18-month period without a single lost-time injury.

“Preliminary inquiries show that the specifics of this incident – where reticulated gas entered a drained water main – appear to be unprecedented in the water industry anywhere in the world.

“We have cooperated fully with the Department of Labour in their inquiries and are continuing to do so.”
As yet the Department of Labour has only issues a statement saying that two un-named parties have had charges laid against. source

We know that workplace injuries and deaths are seldom purely “accidents” and that they are usually as a result of a chain of events, some of which are down to safety management system and equipment failures.

Natural gas not responsible

A Vector Gas company spokeswoman told the NZ Herald it would was not being prosecuted over the explosion because it didn’t happen on their worksite. There was also a discrpency with Mark Ford’s statement that reticulated gas was involved:.

Ms Hodge said the company only provided a gas distribution system and natural gas was not involved in the accident.

“There’s been a question about [natural gas], with Mr Ford saying preliminary enquiries indicating [natural gas was involved]. That’s not what our enquiries show.”

“Too many people dying and being injured at work”

Coming at a time when a inquiry is being held into the Pike River Mine disaster a Department of Labour press release stated

“This investigation was the result of a tragic accident that claimed one life, and left others injured,” says John Howard the Department’s Northern General Manager.

There are too many people dying and being injured at work and the Department is committed to bringing down this toll.

“Our investigation was very thorough and looked at whether the legal obligations were complied with, what caused the accident and what can be done to prevent this happening in the future,” Mr Howard says… more here

Engineer was safety conscious

Philomen and her husband were big supporters of Oxfam in New Zealand and they were the driving force behind Watercare’s partnership with Oxfam Trailwalker ever since the event came to New Zealand in 2006. She undertook the 100 kilometre challenge an amazing five times.

She was said to be a “stickler for work safety” and said she felt that engineering ran in her family – her father had spent 34 years building roads for the Department of Highways in British Columbia through challenging terrain such as the Rocky Mountains.

Canadian Pacific describes itself as

Cnadian Pacific Limited (CPL) was established in 1994 as a specialist piping contractor and has continued to strengthen and expand services in the course of CPLs growth.The specialist expertise of CPL has concentrated around the water and wastewater industries, with the company motto of Engineered Solutions identifying that the focus of our organization is to find solutions to our clients challenges.

Canadian Pacific Ltd operates two separate divisions; each of these divisions focus on specific areas of expertise whilst utilizing the skills and scale of the total operation to deliver competitive engineering based solutions to our clients

Reports in June published by the  NZ Herald described the Onehunga project as “pestered with problems”

The mammoth pipeline project that yesterday cost a female worker her life was dogged by delays and being forced through uncharted terrain…

…The terrain where the explosion occurred is notoriously difficult. The land is predominantly hardened lava field with huge pockets of largely uncharted tunnels and caves.

Officials had sought information from Watercare about the terrain, particularly on the likelihood of lava caves in the area.

A report prepared by Watercare in March last year for the former Auckland Regional Council conceded radar probes had failed to reveal exactly what was underground.

 “A trial ground penetrating radar investigation was undertaken for known underground services in Mt Smart Rd and … in the Te Kawa Rd/Campbell Rd area.

“For each of the trials the method was unsuccessful in detecting known features and therefore was not deemed to be a sufficiently useful technique for the detection of unknown features along other sections of the route.” more here

You may also be interested in the following document, does similar guidance exist in New Zealand?

“The Classification & Management of Confined Space Entries” Industry Guidance by Water UK

“Appendix 1 identifies the common hazards, which may be encountered during confined space work in the water industry.

Hazards can be present as a result of the intrinsic use of the confined space e.g. a foul sewer will contain sewage, which can produce toxic or flammable gases. In addition to the intrinsic hazards present, hazards may also be introduced as a result of the work being done e.g. toxic gas produced during a pipe relining project, the use of welding equipment etc.

Whilst not exhaustive, this guide to common intrinsic and introduced hazards found in the water industry may be of assistance in formulating a risk assessment. This guide does not lessen the obligation to carry out a risk assessment…

…NC4 classified entries necessitates the development of a detailed risk assessment and task specific Safe System of Work (SSW). Where appropriate the SSW will incorporate valving schedules, permits to work, gas test certificates, etc.

Circumstances, which might lead to NC4 classification, might include where: –
· fluid, mechanical or electrical isolation arrangements are complex
· structural conditions are in doubt
· underground systems are particularly deep or complex
· record drawings are in doubt;
· there is a history of serious atmosphere hazard;
· industrial waste discharges are insufficiently diluted to control harm from chemical, biological or radioactive agents
· the risk of drowning is only controlled by pumping or by tide
· the job involves hot work or a fume producing process
· the job requires electrical apparatus operating above Safety Extra Low Voltage (SELV) 25 volts or which is not explosion protected
· the work in hand is unfamiliar, complex or inherently hazardous
This list is not intended to be exhaustive…

…4.7 No person shall enter a confined space without prior and continuous atmosphere monitoring which, as a minimum, monitors for
· low oxygen
· flammable gas
· reasonably foreseeable toxic gases

TABLE 1.3 Non – exhaustive list of intrinsic hazards, which may be found in confined spaces – Water Supply & Distribution Networks:

Mains gas a recognised hazard in water supply and distribution networks