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Firm fined £90,000 after culvert collapse injures 63-year-old

Money

A construction firm has been fined £90,000 after a brick culvert collapsed on a worker and left him with life-changing injuries.

Enterprise, of Edmund Halley Road, Oxford, admitted breaches of section 22 (1) and 28 (1) of the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2007.

In a case taken to Maidstone Crown Court by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the firm was also ordered to pay £22,876 costs.

The court heard that Kent County Council appointed Enterprise to replace a damaged, brick culvert under Tudely Lane in Tonbridge. Enterprise in turn appointed Topbond, of Castle Road, Sittingbourne, to do the majority of the work.

Topbond admitted breaches of section 13 (1) and 28 (1) of the same regulations, and was fined £70,000 and ordered to pay £22,876 costs.

The HSE said that on 27 January 2012 water was being pumped out of the work area when three workers including 63-year-old Michael Skitt of Kingsnorth, Ashford, entered the area between two culverts in order to clear a channel for the remaining water to flow toward the pump head.

Shortly after they entered the area, the court heard, the old brick culvert collapsed. One man jumped clear, another was hit but managed to release himself, but Michael Skitt was trapped and injured.

He suffered injuries including shoulder blade breaks, an open shin break and a dislocated knee. He spent 26 days in hospital, walks with a stick and has had to give up full time work.

HSE said the stability of the structure was not assessed adequately, and sufficient planning was not undertaken to ensure adequate control measures were in place.

Its investigation found that the old culvert was originally going to be demolished early in the work. The body added that when this was changed, the implications of uncovering half of the damaged culvert and therefore loading it unevenly and undermining it were not managed.

HSE inspector Nicola Wellard said: “This is a sad case that has changed at least one man’s life forever. The culvert was being replaced because it had been damaged previously.

“Just this one piece of information should have been enough to ensure both contractors assessed the stability of the culvert throughout the work and took appropriate measures to ensure people were protected from the risk of collapse.”

A spokesperson for Enterprise said: “We can confirm that Enterprise (AOL) Ltd has pleaded guilty to two charges by the Health & Safety Executive and accepted the imposed fine relating to an incident that occurred in 2012. We deeply regret that a sub-contractor was injured in the course of his work.

”This took place at a time when Enterprise was contracted by Kent County Council to maintain its roads. The Enterprise group was subsequently acquired by Amey in 2013 and a number of improvements have been made to the company’s procedures. People’s health and safety is always our top priority.”

Topbond has been approached for comment.

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