Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Gas warning to industry after trench death

NEWS

URGENT WARNINGS highlighting the dangers of gases seeping into trenches dug near old mine workings must be issued to the construction industry immediately, a Sheffield coroner ordered last week.

Deputy coroner Professor Robert Forrest instructed the Health & Safety Executive after recording a verdict of accidental death of a man killed while working in a sewer trench last October. He died from carbon dioxide poisoning while digging in a backfilled opencast coal site at Rockingham, near Barnsley.

Professor Forrest claimed there was widespread knowledge in the mining industry of the dangers of black damp gas - the carbon dioxide-rich product of decaying coal - in or near mine workings and the likelihood of it entering excavations. But that information, he said, was not being effectively communicated to the industry.

Christopher Noonan, aged 22, died after he entered the 5m deep trench to rescue his father who had fainted while inspecting a newly laid sewer pipe.

Noonan senior, who had slumped with his head higher up the trench side than his son, survived. Contractor Duffy Construction had gas detection equipment but only used it for checking manholes.

Barnsley metropolitan district council acted as agent for the sewer contract for Yorkshire Water. The HSE is considering prosecutions.

Senior gas engineer with consultant International Mining, Robin Burrell, told the inquest that it was quite common for black damp to seep into the bottom of such trenches. This, he said, could come from either surrounding opencast backfill or, more likely in this case, from earlier mine workings 80m below.

Later measurements recorded a 20 percent concentration of carbon dioxide in lower sections of the trench - over 70 times higher than in normal air.

Speaking after the inquest, Burrell said: 'We need a code of practice recommending that such trenches are regularly checked for gas.'

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.