deep excavation sign

Fatality caused by pavement excavation could have been avoided with proper risk management

A water utilities contractor has been prosecuted after a member of the public fell into one of its pavement excavations and died.

In May 2017, Luton-based M&S Water Services (Utilities) Ltd excavated a hole in the pavement to carry out work on drainage pipes.

The work was not carried out that day, so barriers were erected around the excavation. As it was prior to a Bank Holiday weekend the barriers would in place for at least five days.

Over the weekend a member of the public fell into the excavation and their body was found the next morning.

The HSE carried out an investigation of the incident and identified that the barriers used were insufficient given that the excavation would be left over a Bank Holiday weekend.

If a risk assessment had been correctly carried out it would have identified that secure fencing, back filling or covering of the excavation should have been used.

The company was prosecuted under s.3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and convicted in July 2021. It was fined £100,000 with costs of £50,238.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Alison Ashworth, said: “This tragic incident could have been avoided if the risks had been properly assessed and simple precautions put in place.”

The case demonstrates that any excavations in the public realm are more complex than would first be apparent and that a thorough and competent risk assessment must be carried out before works commence.

Aegis is able to advise clients on managing the risks linked to excavations in the public realm and can also assist companies in planning this work. Contact us for more information.