Worker buried in excavation collapse

A building site worker buried under a pile of soil after the unsupported sides of a three-metre deep excavation collapsed was lucky not to have been killed, a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector has said.

The inspector was speaking after construction firm and main contractor Bluebay Properties Ltd was fined £6,000, pleading guilty to breaching the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations. The Dorset firm was also ordered to pay £4,000 costs and a £120 victim surcharge.

Sudden

Bournemouth Magistrates’ Court heard that Kevin Richards, of Weymouth, was in a narrow gap checking preparatory work for the retaining wall of a basement at a property in Lilliput, Poole when the sides suddenly gave way in June 2012.

Mr Richards, who was working for a sub-contractor, was buried under a large quantity of earth. A colleague who had heard the noise used his hands to remove some of the soil to enable him to breathe, but a catalogue of injuries were still sustained.

The 46-year-old was left in hospital for over four weeks with a collapsed lung, broken right leg, fractured shoulder blade and two fractured ribs.

An HSE investigation found that the 150 square metre excavation – managed by Bluebay Properties Ltd – had not been supported, the court heard.

It was told the site at Blake Hill Crescent in Lilliput was also the home of Bluebay’s proprietor.

Work accident ‘should never have happened’

After the case HSE inspector James Powell said: “It was only a matter of good fortune that Mr Richards was not killed.”

He said other workers were also put at risk, adding that the incident “should never have happened”.

Mr Powell said there is always a risk of collapse if excavations were left unsupported or not “suitably battened back”.

The firm had identified collapse as a hazard but failed to implement measures to cut the risk, relying instead on a visual inspection.

The inspector added: “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.”

Accident Advice Helpline says many accidents at work can be avoided by firms following health and safety guidelines.

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