Company faces £150k fine for gas blast that killed one worker and seriously injured another

A company has been fined after a devastating gas explosion that killed a worker in Newmains.

Tuesday, 27th April 2021, 6:06 pm

Another man was badly burned in the blast at the Roman Catholic Church Diocesan Centre in Bonkle Road.

Pawel Urbanski (23), of Coatbridge, and Courtney Clinton (26), of Motherwell, suffered 80 per cent burns.

Mr Urbanski died in hospital four days later.

Dad of four Mr Clinton survived but has been left with life-changing injuries.

The men’s employer, asbestos removal firm Enviraz, admitted breaching health and safety legislation.

Hamilton Sheriff Court heard the company failed to ensure the gas supply to the building was cut off before carrying out work in October 2017.

Asbestos was being removed from a boiler room prior to the disused building being demolished.

The blast happened when gas escaped and ignited as pipes were being cut.

Emma Jeffrey, prosecuting, said a supervisor smelled gas but before he could do anything there was an explosion and he and a colleague were thrown to the ground.

Ms Jeffrey told the court: “They saw Mr Urbanski running screaming from the church building.

“His clothes had been burned off.

“The witnesses went inside and found Mr Clinton. His clothes had also been burned off.”

Both casualties were taken to Glasgow Royal Infirmary where they underwent surgery.

However, Mr Urbanski ‘s condition deteriorated and he died four days later.

The court heard Mr Clinton required extensive hospital treatment for his burns and physiotherapy.

He developed sepsis and now suffers from depression and flashbacks.

Ms Jeffrey said: “The incident has had a catastrophic effect on him.”

The blast was investigated by the police and the health and safety executive.

It was found there was no written record of the gas supply having been isolated before work began.

The Diocese of Motherwell estates manager said the issue of gas had never been raised by Enviraz.

The company claimed it had been told all services had been isolated, but Ms Jeffrey stressed: “There is no documentary evidence to confirm this position.”

The company’s lawyer said it had “high regard” for health and safety, but on this occasion its risk assessment had been “inadequate”.

Had a gas isolation certificate been sought and produced, the tragedy would not have happened.

The solicitor claimed there is a wider problem in the industry of contractors having difficulty obtaining such certificates from clients.

She added: “The message from the company now is to down tools and contact a senior manager to ensure a certificate is produced and work can commence.”

Two Enviraz directors were in court and wished to extend their sympathy to those affected by the explosion.

The company had provided financial help to both families.

Mr Clinton has settled a personal injury claim and continues to be on the company payroll.

Sheriff Colin Dunipace expressed sympathy with relatives of the victims who attended the court hearing.

The sheriff said: “This was a tragedy with devastating consequences for Pawel Urbanski and Courtney Clinton. It has had an unimaginable impact on their families.”

Sheriff Dunipace said the company should have ensured a gas isolation certificate had been issued before starting work.

He stated: “There was a clear, systemic failure to properly identify, assess and adequately manage and control the risks associated with gas.”

Enviraz had “fallen far short of the appropriate standards” and the degree of culpability was “high”.

Firm must also pay additional £11,250 under victim surcharge scheme.