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Date PostedJuly 25, 2012

Gas Leaks A Major Construction Site Hazard

A gas leak on a construction site left 300 people out in the cold, as they had to be evacuated from their homes when a bobcat working on the site severed a gas line.  Thankfully the situation did not escalate further, but was contained and the residents were returned to their homes shortly afterward.

The incident was reported by Abc.net.au:

About 300 people were evacuated after a gas leak at a construction site in South Yarra.

A bobcat severed a major gas main on Surrey Road at around 8:00am (AEST).

The elderly residents of a 12-storey housing commission block next to the construction site were evacuated around 8:30am.

They were given blankets and hot drinks to keep warm before being allowed back into their homes about two hours later.

Malvern Road and Surrey Road were closed while crews capped the leak and made the scene safe.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-07-13/residents-evacuated-following-gas-leak/4128764

Thankfully the incident was contained and no one was injured. Besides being inconvenient and causing costly construction delays this leak was relatively mild, however other gas leak incidents may not be so mild. Especially where construction work is involved a proper evacuation procedure needs to be established and followed In the case of an emergency. This emergency situation response plan should form part of the sites health and safety coordination plan.

On a construction site there are some dangers that are more prevalent than others and are common to most construction sites, be it residential or commercial sites, one of those hazards involves the possibility that construction workers and machinery digging down into the earth can accidentally rupture gas pipes.

A prioritisation of safety begins with identifying the risks and developing a strategy in which to deal with these risks, by either substituting them with a less dangerous activity or minimising the risk using control measures, however even sites with the strictest compliance to safety there is still the possibility of an accident or such as in the case above a potentially deadly gas leak.

In an emergency there are three (3) important points to remember and follow:

1. Stay Calm

Panicking will not help the situation and will cause your mind to become blurry. For a clear and concise mind and ability to react correctly remain calm and collected. This will enable you to remember your training and induction and respond appropriately.

2. Raise the Alarm

As soon as the hazard has been identified, warn others. Do not keep silent about the emergency, you could save someone else’s life.

3. Get Help

Get the attention of supervisors, Health and Safety Representatives, first aid officers, other workers and call emergency services.

When contacting emergency services stay as calm as possible, this will aid the flow of communication and allow the operator to understand you better.  They ask important information which you must answer correctly. Also do not hang up the phone until the operator says it’s okay to do so.

Principal contractors and construction employers have a responsibility to develop emergency response plans that:

• Are unique to the construction site. Site specific plans will incorporate specific situation that may arise due to the unique hazards and risks that the construction site may present that would differ from site to site. This is why a simply generic plan would not work.

• Consider every stage of the construction project from breaking ground to laying the final tile. Also consider the ability of emergency services to attend and access the point of emergency.

• Make provision for all issues including gas leaks. Some of the other issues that may occur are – plant and vehicle rollover, excavation or scaffold collapse etc.

• The plans should include details of the location of the nearest medical facilities and first aid provisions.

• Include procedures for when the relevant emergency services may not respond or be able to deal with the emergency due to working in a remote area, or traffic delays etc.

• A factor often ignored is the regular review of the safety plan and emergency procedures. As the construction progresses, situations change, hazard change or new ones are established so emergency procedures should also be adjusted accordingly.

Posted by Peter Cutforth


Peter Cutforth is a Director at Urban E-Learning, a global elearning and web strategy firm based in George St Brisbane. Peter's interests extend to training, safety and compliance, online marketing, and Mobile Apps.

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