New guidance on excavation safety will be made available a year and a half after a geotechnical firm was convicted of corporate manslaughter when a trial pit collapsed on an employee.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) told NCE it will produce a new industry publication giving updated advice on safety rules and best practice surrounding excavations, to be published by July 2012 at the earliest.
The publication is pertinent in the wake of Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings’ conviction in February this year of the corporate manslaughter of junior geotechnical engineer Alexander Wright, who died in a 3.8m deep unsupported trial pit.
Much of the trial centred on the question of whether pits deeper than 1.2m should be supported or battered back.
However, the HSE said the decision to produce new guidance was taken “some time ago” and was not influenced by the corporate manslaughter trial.
The document is being produced by HSE together with the Construction Plant-hire Association (CPA). The new publication will address technological advances in construction equipment and legislation such as the Construction, Design and Management Regulations 2007.
The Executive’s previous guidance book on excavations, HSG 185, is out of print and will not be reissued because it predates these developments. “Simply re-issuing was not appropriate,” said a HSE spokesman.
ICE guidance says trial pits over 1.2m deep must be reinforced by “timbering or other support”, or else should not be entered by employees when alone on site.
However, HSE told NCE that the 1.2m rule appears in “prescriptive” regulations from 1966 but not in newer regulations published in 1996 and 2007, which are − like most modern health and safety legislation − “goal setting, not prescriptive”.
HSE said: “For some activities and materials [or] ground conditions, danger might arise from excavations less than 1.2m deep and in other exceptional circumstances excavations exceeding such a depth may not present potential danger.
“Specific works should be assessed by someone who is competent to assess the risk and determine what controls are needed.”