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Construction firm in court after employee seriously injures leg

Construction firm, Galliford Try Infrastructure Ltd, has been in court for safety failings after one of its employees was injured when an excavation trench collapsed on his leg.

What happened?

Paul Fennelly, who had been told that the water supply had been turned off, was cutting a section of cast iron water pipe within a 1.3 metre deep excavation trench.

Water suddenly gushed from the pipe forcing Mr Fennelly to move out of the way, but as he moved part of the trench collapsed, trapping his right leg against the pipe and covering it with clay.

The 45-year-old was rushed to hospital with a snapped thigh bone, where he stayed for ten days and had an operation to insert a pin and bolts into his leg. He was reliant on walking sticks for five months, and was unable to return to work until 11 months later.

Currently he is unable to work as he needs a further operation and is still in considerable pain.

An investigation into the accident found that Galliford Try Infrastructure Ltd had identified the risks involved in excavation work, and had ensured employees had sufficient training in excavation work, as well as implementing daily excavation inspections.

However, the court heard that there had been insufficient consideration of the potential effect of a sudden flow of water to the stability of the excavation.

What was the outcome?

Galliford Try Infrastructure Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, and was fined £3,000.

HSE Principal Inspector, Niall Miller, said:

“Risks relating to the collapse of excavations are long-standing
and well-documented. As one cubic metre of soil typically
weighs between 1.6 and 1.8 tonnes, even the collapse
of a small quantity of material is potentially
dangerous. Soil collapse can be rapid
and completely without warning.

“While the inspection carried out by Galliford Try had concluded
that the excavation had been dug appropriately, it had not
sufficiently taken the water into account.

“As a result, the company failed to assess whether additional
protective measures were needed to prevent collapse,
such as sloping or battering the sides or some
form of support such as shoring.

“As a result Mr Fennelly has been left with a very painful
injury from which he has still not fully recovered.”

If you have been affected by an accident at work, and you would like expert advice, contact Hampson Hughes Solicitors today on 0800 888 6888 or email

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