A worker laying a drainage pipe at a holiday park suffered serious injuries when a trench he was working in collapsed on top of him.
Grzegorz Waluszkowski, 40, was helping to lay the pipe at the park on Lady’s Mile Farm, Exeter Road, Dawlish on July 23 2010, when the wall of the two metre deep trench caved in.
He was dug out by others at the scene before the emergency services arrived but had suffered multiple fractures to his skull, jaw and cheekbones.
The Health and Safety Executive prosecuted the park operators Main Gate Leisure after an investigation into the incident found the company had failed to adequately plan the work or put the necessary safety measures in place.
Torquay Magistrates’ Court heard Waluszkowski, who lived on the site, was working on the trench with two directors of Main Gate Leisure Limited.
The trench walls were propped-up with plywood and metal plate with a piece of softwood between the two sides holding them up. This gave way, and Waluszkowski was trapped when one side of the trench collapsed.
Frantic efforts were made by staff at the site to release Waluszkowski, who was unconscious, using shovels and eventually one of the directors used an excavator to help to dig him out from the rubble.
HSE Inspector, Jonathan Harris, said: “The trench was clearly inadequately supported and the plywood and metal plate were no more than a rudimentary attempt to support the trench walls.
“Normally trench boxes would be used as shields whenever workers need to briefly enter a trench. These boxes can be rented from hire-companies.
“This incident could easily have led to a fatality and shows the vital importance of proper planning and adequate safety measures when carrying out this sort of work.”
Main Gate Leisure Limited, of Lady’s Mile Farm, Exeter Road, Dawlish, were fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £2,198 in costs
Source: Construction Enquirer
LST Comment: Unfortunately this is yet another example of injury caused by crushing. Few realise the weight of soil/ground and the damage it can do (soil/ground can weigh anything up to 2 tonnes per cubic metre), when unsupported trenches collapse. Appropriately trained and experienced competent Temporary Works or Structural Engineers should dictate by design the trench support method which is to be used and followed. Factors such as density, soil type, angle of repose and moisture, along with surrounding structures all affect trench support design and considerations.
So next time you work in or near to a trench, be confident that the method used to support it is suitable, and that it has been dictated by suitably qualified and competent person.