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RAIN TRIGGERED COLLAPSE OF UNSUPPORTED EXCAVATION

Civils contractor failed to assess collapse risk and implement basic precautions

Phil Watson Civil Engineering Ltd has been fined after a workman was buried up to his waist when a trench collapsed on a small Lincolnshire housing development in August 2011.

The groundworker was laying drainage pipes in a trench on a day during which it was raining heavily. He was in the trench when the excavator operator noticed the walls of the trench “started to crack” and he shouted a warning.

However, before he could escape he was struck by falling material (including a large lump of concrete) and was pinned down by his legs. He dislocated and fractured his hip socket and shattered his pelvis requiring 10 hours of surgery. He is still off work.

HSE investigators found the company failed to (a) assess the ground conditions and the effect of the rain and (b) failed to install measures to prevent a trench collapse.

Rain made the soil structure more unstable

Phil Watson Civil Engineering Ltd of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 31(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. Lincoln magistrates today fined the firm £10,000 and ordered it to pay full costs of £2,141.

After the hearing HSE Inspector Tony Mitchell said:

“Excavation work is a high risk activity, but the risks are foreseeable and preventable. The site had previously been a farm. It had been demolished and the rubble spread on site as top fill. The subsoil beneath it was predominantly compacted sandy soil, so the ground conditions were poor.

However, this was not properly identified as high risk before work started, the rain made the soil structure more unstable and the trench collapsed because it was not sufficiently supported.

This incident could have been prevented by the use of mechanical trench supports or by sloping the trench sides further. Instead, a man has been left with life-changing injuries.”

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One Response to “RAIN TRIGGERED COLLAPSE OF UNSUPPORTED EXCAVATION”

  1. HSE ENFORCEMENT WEEEKLY UPDATE 22 AUGUST 2012 | PP Construction Safety News Desk Says:

    […] RAIN TRIGGERED COLLAPSE OF UNSUPPORTED EXCAVATION […]