Prosecution for building firm after ground worker trapped by excavation collapse

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A lack of health and safety measures leads to the prosecution of a building firm after an excavation collapsed on a worker

An incident that saw a worker sustain serious injuries has led to the prosecution of a building firm. Wallace Roofing and Building Limited was charged after an excavation collapsed onto a 43-year-old worker.

The case, which was brought before Dundee Sheriff Court, revealed the extent of the incident. According to the details, the worker was trapped in an excavation after it collapsed onto him. The trench was being opened up using an excavator when a boulder prevented progress. The excavator was used to remove the obstruction.

The worker was in the trench helping with the excavation when one of the walls collapsed. The man was buried beneath the dislodged earth and initially his colleagues dug the soil away from his head so he could breathe. The man was partially buried until he was rescued by the emergency services.

The incident, which took place in September 2011 in Falkland, left the man with a broken shoulder and collarbone, punctures to both lungs and fractures to the majority of his ribs. He was hospitalised for nearly three weeks.

HSE investigation

Following the incident the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out an investigation to discern what happened. The investigators found serious health and safety breaches. This included an absence of control measures.

According to the HSE, there was no assessment relating to the risk of collapse from the trench. Furthermore, this was not supported or ‘stepped back’ to control the risk.

The investigation also concluded that none of the workers had formal health and safety training to manage a construction site and no detailed planning of the work 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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