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News added on 10.04.2018

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Construction

Avoiding excavation accidents

A groundworker suffered life-threatening injuries when he was struck by a concrete slab that fell into the trench he was working in. What could his employer have done to prevent this accident?

A construction company was carrying out groundworks for the installation of a new underground water drainage system on an industrial site. The work entailed digging and working in excavation trenches to install new tanks and pipework. After one trench had been fitted with a tank, work commenced on another, adjacent excavation. A worker was asked to go back into the first trench to cover up some exposed pipework so it would not be damaged by the backfill. While he was in the 2-metre-deep trench, a large section of unsupported concrete that was overhanging the side fell on him. It struck him on the head and pinned him down, causing fractures to his skull, ribs, arm and back.

The HSE found that the construction company had failed to put a safe system of work in place to protect the workers in the excavation trenches. The excavation should have been battered back to support the sides and top edges, preventing them from collapsing in.

The construction company pleaded guilty to failing to protect the health and safety of its worker under 2(1). Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. It was fined £70,000 and ordered to pay costs of over £4,000.

Groundworks firms must risk assess the excavations on each site and make sure they are safe to work in. This employer failed to make sure that the trench was adequately shored up. Unsupported excavations are only safe if they are battered back properly or dug into sound rock.

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