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WORKMAN SLID INTO SEWAGE WELL ON HOMES SITE

Fine follows failure to control risk and ‘extremely unpleasant experience’

Tardis Environmental UK Ltd has been prosecuted after a workman fell and slid 7m into sewage well on a partially completed housing development in August 2011.

A pump at the bottom of the well had failed due to a blockage with “rag” bulky waste material. In order to remove the waste the man used a road tanker with pump and hose attachments. He opened a grid at the top of the well and stood over it to support and manipulate the hose.

The hose kicked back and caused him to fall into the chamber. The workman grabbed the hose as he slid down into waste at the bottom of the well where he stood disorientated for around twenty minutes before he realised he had his mobile phone with him and was able to call for help

The man ingested raw sewage, sustained friction burns to his arms, and bruised his elbows, knees and head in the fall. 

HSE investigators found the employee had not received instruction or training in how to empty deep, below-ground sewage wells with specific regard to the risks involved with working at height.

Worker restraint or harness should have been used

Tardis Environmental UK Ltd, of Bloxwich pleaded guilty (14 Nov) to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 at Dudley Magistrates’ Court. The company was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £3,000 in costs. After the hearing HSE inspector Anthony Woodward said:

“The incident was entirely preventable. The nature of the work meant the worker was right next to, and leaning over, the deep well.

Although he was working at ground level the depth of the pit meant he was working at height so reasonable precautions to prevent a fall should have been provided by the company, such as a worker’s restraint or harness.”

He was lucky to escape serious injury or further harm. If he had not have grabbed onto the hose to slow his fall, he might even have been killed. It was an extremely unpleasant experience that he should have been protected from.”

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