The upstream distribution gas industry comprises four main Distribution Gas Transporters (GTs) in the UK along with members of the Association of Independent Gas Transporters, each of whom own at least one of the distribution networks (“network”). They utilise both their own employees and operatives contacted and sub-contracted to work on their behalf. All of the above work on maintaining the safety and integrity of the Distribution Gas Transportation system.
The Gas Distribution Transporter system transports natural gas to over 20 million domestic customers and the majority of commercial and industrial consumers are connected to the gas distribution network in the UK. The GTs are licensed to transport gas to the consumers through a network of pipes made of different materials and operating at different pressures. Each of the networks has obligations to maintain and renew their networks and additionally each GT has a statutory obligation to provide an emergency service for reported gas escapes. In each of these obligations, Gas Transporters’, contractors’ and sub-contractors’ operatives make decisions which have a very significant impact on health and safety on a daily basis.
A failure to meet required technical standards can be extremely serious as a failure of a network and associated activities has the potential to lead to death, injury, significant property damage and/or the loss of gas supplies to large number of people. Additionally, elements of the Gas Distribution Transporter System have a long asset life and a high percentage of them are buried, so a failure of the network can be difficult to detect and may occur many years after the original failure to meet technical standards. GTs work extremely hard to ensure the network is as safe as is reasonably practicable including with regard to the competency of operatives.
A serious problem encountered by GTs in the UK occurs when an individual who is permitted to work on the Distribution Gas Transportation system has been found to have dangerously low levels of competence and/or capability in their area of work. Such an individual could have their permission to work on a network removed due to:
- Being dismissed from employment or a contract or a specific role as a result of this and perhaps other failings
- Choosing to leave their job either while disciplinary proceedings are in train or before having completed an action plan designed to raise their level of competence to a safe level
It is important, for safety reasons, that individuals who have demonstrated a lack of competency and/or capability cannot gain permission to work by failing to disclose their work history until a full account of their work history has been reviewed. The position of an individual described above who initially works as a contactor or subcontractor is broadly the same and this is detailed in the relevant section below.
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