Lincoln Magistrates' Court heard how the associated fire and explosion risk caused by the leak meant that the road around the field was closed and an evacuation zone was set up, resulting in nearby residents being instructed to leave their homes for two nights until the pipe was repaired.
The pipeline was known to have shallow cover as it had been previously struck during subsoiling operations in the same field in 1997. The farm failed to inform, instruct or warn employees of the presence or location of the gas pipeline or that it was only a few inches underground. Employees were not provided with a farm map or marked plan showing the route of the pipeline.
W.& A.C. Rose Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and Regulation 15 of the Pipelines Safety Regulations 1996. The company was fined £22,000 with £2,207.40 costs and a £200 victim surcharge.
Health and Safety Executive inspector Samantha Farrar said: "This incident could easily have been avoided if sufficient measures had been taken to tell workers about the location and shallow nature of the gas pipeline.
"The pipeline strike and the resulting uncontrolled release of gas caused a significant risk of fire or an explosion which could have resulted in the loss of life. The company failed to take appropriate action to prevent a further strike, despite being aware of the reduced cover over the pipeline."