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Hertfordshire firm and director fined after excavation collapse

Date:
4 March 2015

The director of a building firm was partially buried when the high sides of an excavation he was working on collapsed on him, a court has heard.

Paul Connolly, director of Bushey-based PNT Contractors Ltd, had to be rescued by workers digging him out by hand after the excavation collapse at a site in Essex in July 2014. He was taken to hospital and suffered a broken leg and ankle.

The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which today (4 March) prosecuted Mr Connolly and the company at Southend Magistrates’ Court.

The court heard PNT Contractors Ltd was carrying out extensive ground work at a site in Crays Hills, Bilericay, when the incident took place.

Paul Connolly had used an excavator to dig into the side of a slope, leaving unsupported excavation sides of up to 2.5 metres in height.

Mr Connolly and another employee were working in the sheer-faced excavation when it collapsed. The second worker managed to jump to safety but Mr Connolly was partially buried and trapped by the falling earth and had to be dug out by hand by his two employees.

HSE served a prohibition notice the following day stopping any work until the excavation was made safe.

PNT Contractors Ltd of Sparrows Herne, Bushey, Hertfordshire, was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,176 after admitting a breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations.

Paul Martin Connolly of Lipton Street, Watford, was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,176 for a similar breach by virtue of being a director of the company.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Adam Hills said:

“Paul Connolly not only endangered himself, but was reckless with the lives of his employees. Every year people are killed or seriously injured by collapsing trenches. The dangers here were obvious.

“A few simple and inexpensive precautions could have easily prevented this from occurring. To prevent a collapse you should shore, step, or batter back the sides. Do not assume ground will stand up unsupported.”

Notes to Editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training, new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Regulation 31(1) of Constuction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 states: All practicable steps shall be taken, where necessary to prevent danger to any person, including, where necessary, the provision of supports or battering, to ensure that (a) any excavation or part of an excavation does not collapse; (b) no material from a side or roof of, or adjacent to, any excavation is dislodged or falls; and (c) no person is buried or trapped in an excavation by material which is dislodged or falls.
  3. Section 37(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: Where an offence under any of the relevant statutory provisions committed by a body corporate is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or to have been attributable to any neglect on the part of, any director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate or a person who was purporting to act in any such capacity, he as well as the body corporate shall be guilty of that offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.
  4. Further HSE news releases are available at press.hse.gov.uk

 

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