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Explosion kills construction worker.


ATTEMPTS to remove a disused fuel tank from a buildings scheme at the site of a former petrol station are central to an investigation into an explosion which killed a London construction worker Stephen Hampton who was understood to be in his 50s.

Investigators from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), have examined the site in Swains Lane, Highgate, along with police and fire crews and are studying what plan had been put in place to safely remove old tanks and reports that petrol could be smelt by passers-by before the tragedy.

It is understood that warnings about what was below ground were raised five years ago when another developer checked out the site for a redevelopment scheme that never proceeded.

A report by a team of environmental engineers in 2012 said that: “localised hydrocarbon contamination was suspected adjacent to and beneath the buried tanks and associated pipe-works,” suggesting that they may have leaked.

When a new developer, Noble House, started a scheme to build nine shops and 12 homes, they are reported to have also been required to scan the land for potential problems, such as contamination, as a condition of planning consent.

Noble House hired site investigation firm, Chelmer Consultancy Services, which said “The site is not considered to pose an unacceptable risk to ground workers, provided that appropriate health and safety protocols are employed.” The report added that it would be the responsibility of site owners, Noble House, to ensure this was done to HSE requirements.

Fuel tanks, filler pipes and an oil interceptor had been found buried beneath the land. Chelmer also reported that there was a risk to “future site users and residents” and recommended “further action” is taken to protect people from “potential vapours”, adding: “groundworks contractors should also refrain from smoking whilst on site.”

If the tanks were to remain in place, Chelmer recommended that they should be filled with concrete and, if removed, should be “pumped of their liquid contents and degassed by a suitably licensed contractor with appropriate certification.” The report added that the tanks could then be dug up and taken away.

Noble House recruited demolition company Material Movements for this, which, in turn, contacted Stephen Hampton’s employer, PJL Plant Hire.

Noble House said: “The demolition works and removal of the tanks was being undertaken by a specialist company, Material Movements Ltd, which is well respected and was instructed by our main contractor.”