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MAJOR CONTRACTOR FINED OVER TRENCH FAILINGS

Effect of water on stability not given sufficient consideration

Galliford Try Infrastructure Ltd (Morrison Construction T/A) has been fined after a worker was seriously injured when a trench collapsed on his leg at a site in Moray on 1 July 2011.

Elgin Sheriff Court was told (3 July) that Paul Fennelly, aged 45, was informed that the water supply was isolated whilst he was cutting a section of cast iron water pipe within a 1.3 metre deep excavation.

However, this was incorrect and following a sudden “gush of water“ from the pipe Mr Fennelly took avoiding action and moved to the other side of the pipe where part of the trench collapsed trapping his right leg against the pipe..

Colleagues dug him out and he was taken to hospital with a ‘snapped’ thigh bone. He was in hospital for 10 days, used walking sticks for five months and was unable to work for almost a year.

HSE investigators found the risks involved in excavation work had been identified with daily excavation inspections and training carried out. However, insufficient consideration had been given by the company to the potential effect of a sudden flow of water to the stability of the excavation.

Small quantity of material poses risk

Galliford Try Infrastructure Ltd (Morrison Construction T/A) of Edinburgh, was fined £3,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 31(1)(a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

Following the case, HSE Principal Inspector Niall Miller, said:

“Risks relating to the collapse of excavations are long-standing and well-documented. As one cubic metre of soil typically weighs between 1.6 and 1.8 tonnes, even the collapse of a small quantity of material is potentially dangerous. Soil collapse can be rapid and completely without warning.

While the inspection carried out by Galliford Try had concluded that the excavation had been dug appropriately, it had not sufficiently taken the water into account. As a result, the company failed to assess whether additional protective measures were needed to prevent collapse, such as sloping or battering the sides or some form of support such as shoring.

As a result Mr Fennelly has been left with a very painful injury from which he has still not fully recovered.”

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