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BUILDER USED DEADLY EXCAVATION METHOD

Workman died from asphyxiation after sides of trench collapsed

Builder Russell Smith Ltd has been prosecuted after a workman died when a trench collapsed on him on a site in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire in 2008. Josh Bladon, aged 22, died whilst working on a house extension.

Aylesbury Crown Court heard the firm had been contracted to carry out the extension work and Mr Bladon was working with a colleague digging a trench for the foundations using a mini-excavator.

During the work his colleague noticed Mr Bladon had disappeared and the trench had collapsed in the middle. Despite efforts to free Josh with the help of neighbours he was pronounced dead at the scene from asphyxiation.

The trench was being excavated at two depths (1.2m and 2.0m) and was a deviation from the original plan for a uniform 1.2 m. The HSE investigators found that the company failed to take into account the risks of increasing the depth of the trench and “took no action to put the right safety measures in place”.

Increased depth of excavation

Russell Smith Ltd of Morton House, 9 Beacon Court, Pitstone Green Business Park, Pitstone pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety etc. at Work Act 1974. The firm was fined at total of £5,000 and ordered to pay costs of £5,000. 

HSE Inspector Gavin Bull said after the hearing:

“Trench collapses are a well-known cause of serious injury and death in the construction industry, this incident could easily have been avoided had the correct planning taken place.

This is a shocking case that has had a profound effect on the family of Mr Bladon. Companies need to recognise the dangers of excavations and ensure safe systems are in order prior to starting work.”

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