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VIBRATION TRIGGERED EXCAVATION COLLAPSE

Ground worker escapes death in 4m deep excavation

BBS Construction Ltd has been fined over unsafe excavation work in which a ground worker was seriously injured on a school project in January 2011.

The hip of the unnamed workman was ‘smashed’ when a face of the 4m deep excavation collapsed. He was buried up to his waist by earth and rubble, and was unable to work for several months.

Maidstone Magistrates’ Court heard (8 May) that the collapse occurred during work to build a new multi-storey science block.

A basement was being excavated. However, concrete to fix the posts for a supporting wall had been ‘overpoured’ and the excess had to be removed with a manually-operated hydraulic breaker. It was this work which triggered the collapse.

An excavator driver managed to stem the flow of earth by placing the bucket of his machine into the earth face but his colleague was still trapped. A co-worker worker managed to jump clear.

HSE investigators established that the risks were not properly assessed. At an earlier stage a waste water drain had been installed close to the face of the basement excavation and this may have made the face more susceptible to collapse.

Risk reassessment required when problems arise

BBS Construction Ltd, of Church Street, Tovil, Maidstone, was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay £10,536 in costs after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

After the hearing HSE Inspector Kevin Golding said:

“This prosecution demonstrates the need to properly plan all aspects of excavation activity, and to reassess systems and methods of work if a problem arises – as happened here when the concrete for the supporting posts was overpoured.

The retaining wall system itself was sound, but the decision to manually chip away the excess was flawed.

The injured worker was dangerously exposed, and could have been more seriously hurt, or possibly even killed, but for the instinctive action of his colleague in using the excavator to shield him.

BBS Construction Ltd could and should have done more to prevent workers from needing to work so close to the unsupported vertical face of a four metre deep excavation.”

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