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June 14, 2011

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Foreman prosecuted for trench-collapse fatality

A foreman has admitted putting himself and colleagues at risk by not using safety equipment issued to him by his employer when digging a trench.

Cameron and Stevenson (Scotland) Ltd had been contracted to repair a blocked water drain in Cranhill Park, Glasgow. The company sent a team of workers to try and remove the blockage with a jet wash, but this was unsuccessful so they decided to replace the sewer.

On 3 April 2008, the team dug a three-metre-deep trench and began replacing the sewer section by section. They had been issued with two trench boxes, which were meant to be placed side by side inside the trench to support the trench walls and create a safe area from which the men could work. But site foreman, William Parry, decided that only one of the boxes needed to be used, which left a six-metre section of the trench unsupported.

Graeme Scott, 30, was part of the team working at the site, and as he was walked along the top of the trench, it collapsed beneath him and he fell into the opening. He attempted to climb out but, as he did so, part of the trench wall collapsed on top of him. His colleagues made frantic attempts to dig him out, but it required the efforts of the emergency services to uncover his body. Once his body was recovered he was pronounced dead at the scene.

HSE inspector, Graeme McMinn, revealed that not only did Parry fail to use the proper equipment to support the trench but he also failed to put a barrier around the top of the excavation to prevent workers from falling. He said: “If Mr Parry had taken the simple precautions he had been instructed to take, then Graeme Scott would be alive today.

“No measures were taken to prevent the trench collapsing, or to stop workers falling in to the trench despite appropriate equipment being readily available on site.

“Mr Parry was working as the foreman and was properly trained in the right way to do trench work. The team had been told at the beginning of the job to use trench boxes to protect themselves. Although the team’s employers should have supervised them more closely, as foreman, Mr Parry had a duty to take reasonable care of the safety of his team.”

Cameron and Stevenson (Scotland) Ltd went into liquidation earlier this year so the HSE decided not to pursue charges against the firm.

Parry appeared at Glasgow Sherriff Court on 9 June and pleaded guilty to breaching s7 of the HSWA 1974 and was fined £240. No costs are awarded in Scotland.

The court heard that he had no previous convictions and that a different team working for the same company completed the job safely.

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11 years ago

Good to see a supervisory position being prosecuted for failing to comply with the SSW. Hopefully this incident will concentrate the minds of all supervisors that work off site and are expected to lead by example.
We have all witnessed and experienced poor attitudes of some ground and civils workers and their negative mind set. As OH&S professionals, we must continue to strive for the buy in of all workers and (when required) make them accept their responsibilities before the incident occurs.