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HSE INVESTIGATION INTO FALL UNCOVERS OTHER RISKS

Accident revealed failure to manage excavator and excavation dangers

Contractor G Loosemore and Son Ltd has been fined after an HSE investigation into the fall of a ground worker revealed dangers associated excavation work in October 2011. The 65-year-old workman suffered fractured vertebrae, broken ribs and sternum, lung and head damage. He was in intensive care for three weeks and he is unlikely to work again.

Barnstaple Magistrates heard (20 March) that during construction of a two-storey home extension the groundworker was using an excavator. He exited the cab and fell 5m down a slope onto a path behind the property. HSE found there was no edge protection to prevent the fall.

In addition, steps had not been taken to support a excavation prior to installation of a supporting wall. Despite several falls of material from the excavation no action was taken. HSE served a prohibition notice preventing excavation work until a competent person had made an assessment and provided a safe system of work.

Serious excavation risks were disregarded

G Loosemore & Son Ltd, of Roundswell Business Park, Barnstaple, Devon, was fined a total of £12,000 and ordered to pay £11,210 in costs after pleading guilty to breaches of:

  • Work at Height Regulations 2005 Section 6(3) – failure to take suitable and sufficient measures to prevent any person falling a distance liable to cause personal injury; and 
  • Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 Regulation 31(1) – failure to take steps to ensure that any excavation or part does not collapse.

..................................... Scaffolding edge protection installed after the incident ........................................

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Annette Walker said:

“The dangers of working at height without adequate edge protection, and the risks associated with excavation collapse, are very clear. Yet companies and individuals continue to take risks and cut corners.

In this case, significant harm occurred in respect of a fall from height. G Loosemore & Son Ltd could and should have done more to prevent the fall from the top of the bank, but this was only addressed as a consequence of the incident.

There were a number of collapses of material prior to the fall that should have prompted the company to take earlier action, but these warnings were ignored. It illustrated there were serious risks, but they were disregarded.

Today’s prosecution should remind all involved in excavation work, or general work at height, of their legal duties to safely manage activity and provide the necessary protection.”

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