Contractor fined for workman’s death on sewerage pipe scheme

A company has been fined after a workman was killed by a piece of flying timber which struck him on the head while laying sewerage pipes in Swindon.

Fredric March, 52, from Croydon, was working at the site in Galton Way, Swindon on 10 June 2011 when a piece of timber used as a cushion on the ends of the pipes being pushed in place by an excavator snapped.

The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted Cappagh Contractors Construction at Swindon Crown Court court today (11 February).

The court heard that Cappagh were the main contractors for the work and employed three workmen to lay iron sewerage pipes in a trench.

The sections of pipe were designed to slot together and the workmen used an excavator bucket to push them in place. Two pieces of timber were used to cushion the ends of the pipes – one horizontally and one vertically. This was so the excavator could work around an existing horizontal strut on a trench box. The horizontal piece of timber snapped while being pushed by the excavator and a broken piece hit Mr March on the head. He sustained critically injuries and died six weeks later.

Cappagh had not given the workmen any guidance or alternative ways to carry out their work around the strut which was causing an obstruction. They had been allowed to come-up with their own method which was inherently dangerous.

Cappagh Contractors Construction (London) Ltd of Waterside Way, Wimbledon, pleaded guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and a breaching the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. The company was fined a total of £130,000 and ordered to pay £70,000 in costs.

HSE Inspector Sue Adsett, speaking after the hearing, said:

“This tragic loss of life could have been avoided if Cappagh had taken proper measures before the work started and planned the task properly.

“Pipe laying companies must have safe systems of work and ensure their workers don’t have to improvise safety measures.

“Employers have a duty to carry out thorough risk assessments and provide safe ways of working. Including the workforce in designing safe methods also makes it less likely that they will improvise when problems arise.”

Notes to Editors

  1. Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”
  2. Regulation 3(1)(a) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states: “Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work.”
  3. HSE news releases are available at

Article source: