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EXCAVATION COLLAPSED DURING WORK ON BASEMENT

Co-worker used bare hands to enable buried worker to breath

Bluebay Properties Ltd has been prosecuted for serious safety failings after a worker was buried under a large quantity of fallen earth at a building site in Dorset.

Kevin Richards, aged 46, was checking formwork for a basement retaining wall when the unsupported sides of a 3m deep excavation collapsed in June 2012. He was struck from behind and was rapidly engulfed by the volume of the soil as he stood in a narrow space between the formwork and face of the excavation.

A colleague heard the collapse and used his hands to remove the material enabling Mr Richards to breath as he was almost completely buried. He suffered a collapsed lung, fractured shoulder, double fracture to a leg, two fractured ribs and was in hospital for more than four weeks.

HSE investigators found the excavation was not supported or suitably battered to a safe angle of repose.

Bournemouth Magistrates were told the site was also the home of the firm’s proprietor and that the injured workman worked for a contractor engaged to undertake the basement part of extension works.

Hazard identified but controls not in place

Bluebay Properties Ltd, of Blake Hill Crescent, Lilliput, Poole, pleaded guilty to a breach of the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2007. The company was fined £ 6,000, ordered to pay £4,000 in costs and a victim surcharge of £120.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector James Powell said:

“This incident should never have happened. It was only a matter of good fortune that Mr Richards was not killed. Other workers were also put at risk.

There is a risk of collapse or partial collapse causing serious injury or death if an excavation is not supported or suitably battered back. Any collapse has the potential to bury or injure people working in an excavation.

Whilst Bluebay Properties Ltd had identified collapse as a hazard, they failed to implement control measures to reduce the risk, instead relying on a visual inspection. No ground can be relied upon to stand unsupported in any circumstances.

Every year people are killed or seriously injured by collapses and falling materials while working in excavations and this site represented a serious risk to workers.”

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