Energy giant National Grid Gas has been hit with a £4 million penalty for passing on incomplete records when it sold its gas distribution networks five years ago.
The records concerned gas risers in high rise multiple occupancy buildings (HRMOBs) which were found to be out of date after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) requested the information from gas distribution networks in June 2017 following the Grenfell Tower disaster.
The networks, which included many buildings in London as well as properties in the North West and Yorkshire, had been managed by National Grid until 2016 when it was taken over by Cadent.
The HSE’s investigation revealed the incomplete records were transferred to Cadent, but the system had not been subject to any audits or reviews when the records issue came to light in December 2017. This meant Cadent was continuing to inspect only the buildings on the existing database.
Records on 769 buildings were missing, meaning gas risers in those HRMOBs had not been subject to a condition survey, inspection or routine maintenance for a number of years.
'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'
Investigators found that National Grid Gas 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.
The HSE launched a criminal investigation that considered the risk that residents and members of the public were exposed to as a result of breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act. Enforcement notices were issued in April 2018 requiring Cadent to take remedial action, which it did.
At Liverpool Crown Court, National Grid Gas admitted breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. As well as the £4 million fine, the utility company was ordered to pay £91,805 in prosecution costs.
HSE principal investigator Julie Voce said the case has 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.'