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GROUND WORKER TRAPPED BY EXCAVATION COLLAPSE

Fellow workers dug earth so injured workman could breath

Wallace Roofing and Building Limited of Fife in Scotland has been prosecuted after a worker was trapped in an excavation which collapsed onto him. Emergency services helped the rescue operation following the incident in September 2011 at a house renovation in Falkland.

Dundee Sheriff Court heard the 43-year-old suffered a broken shoulder and collarbone as well as punctures to both of his lungs and fractures to most of his ribs.

The trench was being opened with an excavator when a boulder was encountered which prevented further digging whilst the excavator was used to move the obstruction.

The injured man was in the trench guiding the excavator when one of the trench walls (some 3m in-depth) collapsed burying the workman beneath the dislodged earth.

His fellow workers immediately started digging the soil away from his head to allow him to breathe. He remained partially buried in the trench until the emergency services arrived and freed the man and was in hospital for almost three weeks.

Total absence of any control measure

HSE investigators found that:

  • Support and angle of repose – the risk of collapse was not assessed and the trench was not supported or ‘stepped back’ to control the risk;
  • Skills and knowledge etc. – nobody possessed formal health and safety training for managing a construction site; and
  • Planning and instructions – workers were only given instructions through verbal briefings. No “detailed, mapped out planning” was undertaken.

Wallace Roofing and Building Limited, of Star, Glenrothes, Fife, pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 33(1)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company was today fined £14,000.

Speaking after sentence, HSE Inspector Ritchie McCrae said:

“The risks associated with collapsing excavation walls are well-known, as are the necessary control measures which could easily have been employed.

On this occasion, the company failed to identify the risk and consequently there was a total absence of any control measure which would have prevented this incident from occurring.  The injured worker sustained serious, permanent injury and is extremely lucky to still be alive.”

 

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