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Director fined after the unsafe excavation he dug collapses on him

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The director of a Hertfordshire building firm has been hauled before the courts for failing to shore up the steep sides of a excavation he had dug that ultimately collapsed and partially buried him, breaking his leg and ankle.


Paul Connolly, director of Bushey-based PNT Contractors Ltd, had to be rescued by workers who dug him out by hand at a site in Crays Hills, Billericay, in July 2014.

PNT Contractors was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,176 after admitting a breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations, while Connolly was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,176 for a similar breach by virtue of being a director of the company.

Southend Magistrates’ Court heard how Connolly was using an excavator to dig a trench in the side of a slope on a project involving extensive groundwork at the Billericay site. He left unsupported excavation sides of up to 2.5m in height.

Connolly and another employee were working in the sheer-faced excavation when it collapsed. The second worker managed to jump to safety but Connolly was partially buried and trapped by the falling earth. He had to be dug out by hand by his two employees.

HSE served a prohibition notice the following day stopping any work until the excavation was made safe.

“Paul Connolly not only endangered himself, but was reckless with the lives of his employees,” said HSE inspector Adam Hills after the hearing. “Every year people are killed or seriously injured by collapsing trenches. The dangers here were obvious.

“A few simple and inexpensive precautions could have easily prevented this from occurring. To prevent a collapse you should shore, step, or batter back the sides. Do not assume ground will stand up unsupported.”

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