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Company fined for dangerous excavation

The unsupported excavation at the development on Britannia Road, High Halstow

A Kent construction company has been fined for unsafe excavation work at a building site in Rochester.

Concerns were raised about the Basi Construction Limited development on Britannia Road, High Halstow, on 26 January 2012 after both Southern Water and Medway Council saw evidence that work was underway down an excavation some three metres deep into soft clay that was totally unsupported.

Two plywood sheets and a single strut had been added when they returned to the site a day later, but it still posed a significant risk.

It prompted an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which (on 19 February) prosecuted Basi Construction for failing to properly plan the excavation, and for endangering workers by leaving unsupported sidewalls that were liable to collapse.

Chatham Magistrates' Court heard the excavation had been made to connect a single new-build home to an existing sewer, with an agent employed by Southern Water visiting the site to check the connection.

An employee from the highways department at Medway Council visited separately in response to complaints about work in the footpath outside the site. The employee notified HSE and described in detail what they had seen, including someone climbing from the excavation. Tools and equipment could also be seen at the bottom.

The excavation had been backfilled by the time a HSE inspector arrived on site, but the witness evidence proved damning.

Magistrates were told that although there was no excavation collapse and no injuries, workers could have been killed had the clay sidewalls given way.

HSE also identified issues with poor welfare facilities at the site, including an inadequate mess area and a chemical toilet with no hot water for washing hands.

Basi Construction Limited, of Sir Thomas Longley Road, Medway City Estate, Rochester, was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay £8,797 in costs for a single breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.


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