March 24, 2015

Director fined for breaking his own leg

The director of a building firm whose leg and ankle were broken when an excavation in Essex collapsed has been fined £15,000.

Paul Connolly, director of PNT Contractors Ltd, had to be dug out by hand after the incident in July 2014.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Mr Connolly and PNT at Southend Magistrates’ Court on 4 March. The court was told that the company had been working at a site in Billericay, where Mr Connolly used an excavator to dig into the side of a slope, leaving unsupported sides up to 2.5 metres high.

Mr Connolly was partially buried by the falling earth although a colleague working with him was able to jump to safety.

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

PNT Contractors Ltd, of Bushey, Hertfordshire, was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,176 after admitting a breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations. Mr Connolly, of Watford, was also fined £15,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,176 for a similar breach.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Adam Hills said: “Paul Connolly not only endangered himself, but was reckless with the lives of his employees. 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.”

Although only about five per cent of working people are employed in construction, the HSE says it accounts for 31 per cent of fatal injuries to employees and ten per cent of reported major/specified injuries.

As part of Palmers’ comprehensive health and safety services, we provide expert legal advice on health and safety compliance and representation in health and safety-related investigations, interviews and prosecutions.

For more information on our health and safety compliance services, please contact Lara Murray and for health and safety representation, please contact Jeremy Sirrell.