• Higher Safety Higher Safety Chipmunk Data Chipmunk Data

    GROUNDWORK SAFETY ISSUES

    “It’ll only take a minute”

    The text below formed the basis of an opinion piece by Philip Poynter published in Construction News on 18th December 2008.

    “Groundwork is an inherently dangerous business. Excavators and excavations present a significant potential for harm and illustrate some of the health and safety challenges that construction industry managers, specialists and regulators grapple with to make further progress. There is no quick fix for any construction hazard. Developing the right mix of technical, managerial and people based initiatives will reap the greatest rewards.

    Excavators – are involved in more fatal injuries than any other item of construction mobile plant. There have been over 30 excavator related construction sector deaths in the last 10 years with the majority caused when the workman was struck by the excavator bucket or arm. Others occurred as the vehicle was reversing, going forward, slewing or when it overturned. 

    Keeping people well away from a working excavator is a key precaution and accident investigations frequently find that poor separation of pedestrians and vehicles is a significant factor. However, it is common and often necessary, for a banksman or ground worker to be near a busy excavator. Well-designed cabs with good visibility, mirrors, and CCTV can all help but where people are present the standard of planning, staff training and awareness must also be of the highest order.

    In 2007 semi-automatic quick hitches came to the fore after three deaths occurred when the excavator bucket became detached and struck a nearby worker. Excavator users and manufacturers responded promptly and worked with HSE to ensure that such quick hitches would no longer be supplied in the UK. This is the best solution to a safety problem. Remove the hazard at source with a technical fix that does not rely on humans who are prone to error. However, the hazard presented by the many semi-automatic quick hitches already in use remains, so the technical solution is limited and deals only with the longer term.

    Excavations – Other groundwork health and safety problems are even less amenable to a technical fix. In 2008 three construction workers died in collapsing excavations. Excavation safety relies on human assessment of the risk, decisions about the physical support required and action to implement and maintain the precautions.

    However, the hazard caused by unstable excavations is nothing new so surely these deaths all occurred on small, unregulated projects using unskilled and untrained migrant labour? Not so. The three deaths involved a range of construction projects: a commercial contract for a water company; a new housing development and; a small home extension. None of the deceased were migrant workers and one was a young soil engineer. Construction hazards do not discriminate by age, experience, country of origin or profession.

    How could it be that in 2008 three construction workers could lose their lives to such a well-known and obvious hazard? Why would anyone enter an unstable excavation and what can be done to avoid such tragic deaths? Here are some thoughts on the subject.

    • Probability: most people are poor at judging the likelihood of a serious incident happening. For example, bottoming out an unsupported excavation with a shovel has serious potential consequences but, “it will only take a minute”, and the probability of an incident occurring can therefore be perceived as low.
    • Experience: if supervisors, managers and directors condone dangerous practices it becomes “the way we do things here”. At least until something goes wrong. Familiarity breeds contempt especially when, for an individual, a serious incident will be a rare event.
    • Planning: hoping that ground workers will not enter an excavation is not an effective prevention strategy. Identification of what the work involves and thorough planning are the building blocks for success.
    • Communications: engaging, discussing and agreeing precautions with everyone is essential. Doing so encourages openness and understanding of working practices at the sharp end. When people take risks they usually do so out of lack of knowledge or a well intentioned desire to “get the job done”. This kind of attitude needs to be harnessed and channelled into desirable behaviours.
    • Accountability: fair and robust approaches are needed from contractors towards their own staff and by main contractors with their groundwork partners. Everyone needs to know what is acceptable and what is not and that their services will be dispensed with if they cannot live with those standards.

    So, next time someone working with a excavator or in an excavation says   “It’ll only take a minute” then take a further 5 minutes to think through what is being proposed because a fatal accident takes less than a second.

    Latest Construction Health and Safety News

    HSE ENFORCEMENT DATABASE LATEST UPDATE

    hselogo1View current online register of HSE prosecutions and enforcement notices

    Read the rest of this article »

    Posted on 31st October 2019

    DEVELOPER AND DIRECTOR PUT PUBLIC AT RISK

    Demolition undertaken without surveys and effective safety precautions

    Read the rest of this article »

    Posted on 28th October 2019

    SELECTED NEWS POSTED RECENTLY ON TWITTER

    Posted on 28th October 2019

    BY-PASSING MACHINE INTERLOCK FINED £1.275 MILLION

    Trapped key safety system failed to prevent access to conveyor danger

    Read the rest of this article »

    Posted on 24th October 2019

    HSE LOSES PATIENCE WITH ERRANT CONTRACTOR

    Roofing firm fined £30,000 over failure to manage work at height risks

    Read the rest of this article »

    Posted on 24th October 2019

    TRUSS ERECTION LACKED INTERNAL FALL PROTECTION

    Carpenter fell and injured whilst falling with roof truss

    Read the rest of this article »

    Posted on 24th October 2019

    WORKMAN FELL HEAD FIRST THROUGH ROOFLIGHT

    Fragile roof dangers not assessed and properly controlled

    Read the rest of this article »

    Posted on 24th October 2019

    STRUCTURAL SAFETY BODY LATEST NEWSLETTER

    CROSS publishes reports and expert comment on a range of issues

    Read the rest of this article »

    Posted on 18th October 2019

    HSE RISK REDUCTION THROUGH DESIGN AWARD

    Regulator seeks to promote hazard avoidance and risk minimisation

    Read the rest of this article »

    Posted on 18th October 2019

    CLIENT AND CONTRACTOR FINED OVER ASBESTOS RISK

    Checks for presence of asbestos not undertaken prior to refurbishment

    Read the rest of this article »

    Posted on 18th October 2019

    DIRECTOR PROSECUTED AND JAILED AS EMPLOYEE

    Workman fatally injured when crushed between bucket and wall

    Read the rest of this article »

    Posted on 18th October 2019

    BUILDING MATERIALS FIRM FINED OVER FATALITY

    Failure to effectively isolated power to machinery caused death of engineer

    Read the rest of this article »

    Posted on 10th October 2019

    CUSTOM AND PRACTICE CAUSED EXPLOSION DEATHS

    Electrical accumulator explosion claims the lives of two engineers

    Read the rest of this article »

    Posted on 10th October 2019

    REBAR FELL DURING TANDEM FLT LIFTING OP

    Workman seriously injured during improperly planned and executed lift

    Read the rest of this article »

    Posted on 10th October 2019

    FIRM FINED AFTER FINGER OF TRAINEE SEVERED

    Young worker injured hand working on unguarded rip saw

    Read the rest of this article »

    Posted on 8th October 2019

    WORKMAN FELL THROUGH ROOF OPENING

    Contractor failed to provide collective edge protection or fall arrest

    Read the rest of this article »

    Posted on 7th October 2019

    DRIVER UNDER TRAINING CRUSHED BY TELEHANDLER

    Court sentences company director to unpaid work community order

    Read the rest of this article »

    Posted on 30th September 2019

    DIRECTOR IN DOCK OVER FRAGILE ROOF RISK

    Roofing contractor and director failed to plan and manage falls risk

    Read the rest of this article »

    Posted on 30th September 2019

    HSE START PROJECT HEALTH RISK INTERVENTIONS

    Regulator set to check health risks assessed and controls in place

    Read the rest of this article »

    Posted on 30th September 2019

    AIF NATIONAL WORKING AT HEIGHT CONFERENCE

    HSE Construction Head to speak at Access Industry Forum conference

    Read the rest of this article »

    Posted on 23rd September 2019

    NEW HSE HAVS CALCULATOR TO HELP CONTROL RISK

    New calculator includes “cautious estimates” for common tools

    Read the rest of this article »

    Posted on 23rd September 2019

    JAIL TERM FOR DIRECTOR OVER LORRY CRANE DEFECTS

    Operator impaled on dangerous and uninspected lifting appliance

    Read the rest of this article »

    Posted on 23rd September 2019

    STEEL PIPE FALL TRIGGERS FREAK CAUSE OF DEATH

    Wooden bearer sent flying by pipe struck workman on head

    Read the rest of this article »

    Posted on 16th September 2019

    FATAL FALL FROM INSECURE SCAFFOLD LADDER

    Scaffold erected by unqualified and incompetent person

    Read the rest of this article »

    Posted on 16th September 2019

    FIRMS FAILED TO MONITOR SAFE SYSTEM OF WORK

    Principal Contractor and specialist fined over fall through roof mesh

    Read the rest of this article »

    Posted on 12th September 2019
  • Higher Safety Higher Safety Chipmunk Data Chipmunk Data

    2 Responses to “GROUNDWORK SAFETY ISSUES”

    1. FIVE DIE IN SA TRENCH COLLAPSE | PP Construction Safety News Desk Says:

      […] This horrific incident highlights the dangers present during groundwork. There were three excavation deaths on UK construction projects in 2008. In addition, this […]

    2. EXCAVATOR FATALITY | PP Construction Safety News Desk Says:

      […] whether the quick hitch issues are involved in this tragic incident. The death highlights the hazards involved groundworks […]