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August 19, 2009

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HSE issues safety alert to utilities and construction industries

Operators of top-cutting machines, which are used to dig trenches in roads, typically for installing or accessing pipework, have been warned of the dangers of using them without proper safety devices, following the death of worker in Wiltshire last month.

The 28-year-old man became entangled in the rotating drum of a top-cutting machine that was being used to dig a trench for a gas main in Box on 31 July. Fire, police and ambulance crews were called but the man died at the scene.

Wiltshire Police is now investigating the incident with the HSE, which yesterday (19 August) issued a safety alert to the construction and utilities industries, warning of the dangers of becoming trapped in these machines, and to raise awareness of the potential risk.
Said HSE inspector, Helena Tinton: “Most machines of this type require a deactivation device, which automatically stops the machine when the operator leaves the driver’s seat. Employers are legally required to ensure that work equipment is maintained in an efficient state and to make sure all safety devices are in working order. Operators should also make sure that the power is disconnected and the machine has come to a standstill before carrying out any maintenance on the cutting wheel.”

She concluded: “We urge those in the construction and utilities industries to check the safety devices on their top-cutting machines to prevent similar incidents occurring.”

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