Sheffield Magistrates’ Court heard that, in September 2016, a 48-year-old man was working in a two-metre-deep excavation when he was struck on the head and pinned down by a large segment of concrete. He suffered multiple injuries, including fractures to his skull, ribs, left arm and vertebrae.
An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that the KDS Construction had been contracted by Abbey Forged Products Limited to carry out groundworks for the installation of a new underground water drainage system at its Beeley Wood Works site in Sheffield.
The investigation also found that KDS employees had dug out a number of excavations for the new tanks and pipework. After one tank had been installed, work started on another excavation for a second tank next to the first. While this was being dug, one of the groundworkers was asked to cover over some pipework that was sticking out of the first tank to protect it from being damaged by backfill. When he descended into the excavation to do this, a section of unsupported concrete, which was overhanging the excavation, broke off and fell onto him.
KDS Construction Company Ltd of Taylors Court, Rotherham pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £70,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,016.15.
HSE inspector Alison Outhwaite said after the hearing: “The employee’s injuries were life changing and he could have easily been killed. This serious incident and devastation could have been avoided if basic safe guards had been put in place.
“This case highlights the need to be aware of the risks of working in and near excavations. The groundwork industry need to appreciate the risks even where excavations are thought to be ‘shallow’ or the ground considered to be stable. As HSE guidance states. ‘Any unsupported excavation will be safe ONLY if its sides are battered back sufficiently or if the excavation is in sound rock’ (HSG150).
“If a suitable safe system of work had been in place prior to the incident, the life changing injuries sustained by the employee could have been prevented.”