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Firm fined after worker injured when pipe fell into trench and struck him

Written by Phoenix Health & Safety
2nd May 2017
trench workers

An Essex company has been fined after an employee suffered life changing injuries while working on a gas infrastructure project.

Maidstone Crown Court heard that on 23 May 2014 an employee of Forefront Utilities Limited had entered a trench in Rochester, Kent to connect gas pipes. The new pipes were resting on tarmac and unsuitable packing timber across the trench, but the weight caused the tarmac to give way. The pipe fell into the trench and struck the employee causing a fractured spine and other serious injuries. He is now paralysed and has no feeling in his bowel. 

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the method for jointing newly laid sections of pipe to previously laid pipe was unsafe. Forefront Utilities Limited of Stephenson Road, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex was found guilty of breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £56,686. 

After the hearing HSE inspector Andrew Cousins said: “Those in control of work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workers... 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".

Phoenix comments: 

This tragic, life changing accident could have resulted in a fatality, Forefront Utilities Limited had a responsibility to conduct risk assessments, understand any dynamic risks and introduce a safe system of work. This is a formal procedure which results from systematic examination of a task in order to identify all the hazards. It defines safe methods to ensure that hazards are eliminated or risks minimised. A method for formulating a Safe System of Work includes the SREDIM principle:

  • Select the job to be analysed
  • Record the steps in the process
  • Examine the component parts of the job
  • Develop control measures
  • Install the safe system
  • Maintain and monitor the safe system

Safe system of work must be communicated properly, understood by employees and applied correctly. Such actions could have prevented this foreseeable accident. 

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