Construction company fined after man dies

A Buckinghamshire construction company has been fined after a man died when a trench collapsed on him.

Builder Joshua Bladon, 22, from Leighton Buzzard, was killed while working on an extension at the house in Langdon Avenue, Aylesbury on 16 April 2008.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Mr Bladon’s employer, Russell Smith Limited for breaching health and safety laws which led to the incident.

Aylesbury Crown Court heard the firm had been contracted to carry out the extension work.

Mr Bladon was digging a trench for the foundations with a colleague, who was using a mini-excavator. The main trench was being excavated at two different depths – 1.2 metres and two metres – in a deviation from the original plan, which was for a uniform 1.2 metres.

At some point during the work, the other employee noticed Mr Bladon had disappeared and the long trench had collapsed in the middle. He tried to dig his colleague out with the help of neighbours but Mr Bladon was pronounced dead at the scene from asphyxiation.

The HSE investigation found that Russell Smith Limited failed to take into account the risks of increasing the depth of the trench and so took no action to put the right safety measures in place. The company did not have a safe system of work on site which would have mitigated the hazards arising from the trench excavation.

HSE's Inspector Gavin Bull, speaking after the hearing, said:

"Trench collapses are a well-known cause of serious injury and death in the construction industry, this incident could easily have been avoided had the correct planning taken place.

“This is a shocking case that has had a profound effect on the family of Mr Bladon. Companies need to recognise the dangers of excavations and ensure safe systems are in order prior to starting work."

Russell Smith Ltd of Morton House, 9 Beacon Court, Pitstone Green Business Park, Pitstone pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety etc. at Work Act 1974. The firm was fined at total of £5,000 and ordered to pay costs of £5,000.

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