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BASEMENT EXCAVATION PROSECUTION

HSE issues warning of dangers in basement conversion projects

JAS Truscott & Son Ltd of Tunbridge Wells has been ordered to pay nearly £20k in fines and prosecution costs after breaching a prohibition notice and failing to secure excavation safety during refurbishment of a London property on 2 and 3 June 2008.

The court heard that JAS continued to work despite clear advice to the contrary and a prohibition notice being issued to stop work immediately. Excavation work continued at a depth of 3m in sandy ballast ground without proper supports to prevent the collapse or to stop people from falling.

HSE is now warning building contractors involved in constructing basements to make sure that they plan the work properly and install sufficient temporary supports when excavating the foundations of houses. 

HSE Inspector Kevin Shorten said: “Basement conversions are significant civil engineering projects. They are not akin to normal extension work. If insufficient methods are used to support underpin excavations, then people’s lives can be put in jeopardy. That is why contractors must follow established engineering principles including the design and installation on site of adequate temporary works. In this case the sandy content of the soil made the excavation work particularly treacherous and there had already been a partial collapse in one of the pits. One cubic metre of soil weighs well over a tonne and can cause extremely serious or fatal injuries if it suddenly falls onto somebody in an enclosed pit”.

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