Director sentenced after worker dies on second day of job

A company director was sentenced today after a trench collapse which killed a young father on only his second day at work for his company. 

Callum Osborne, 24, died when a trench he was digging in Bridgefield Road, Whitstable collapsed in on him. 

At the time of his death on the 7th April 2011, Mr Osborne, whose wife was eight months pregnant, had been working for Cooper Services Ltd and its director Wayne Cooper for just two days. 

During the prosecution of Wayne Cooper, Canterbury Crown Court heard Coopers Services Ltd had been employed by a domestic client to connect new build bungalows to mains drainage, water and gas supplies. 

Access to the site was along a narrow driveway and Wayne Cooper started the work on 29th March to dig a trench for gas and water which was back filled by 1st April. 

Work was then started on the drainage – a few feet from the previously dug trench and by 4th April a manhole chamber was prepared at the entrance to the drive. This work was done by Coopers Services Ltd workers and over the next two days manholes and trenches were prepared around the bungalows. 

On 7th April, Mr Osborne was acting as a banksman and taking measurements of trench depth while a colleague was digging the main trench down the centre of the driveway for the drainage pipes and banking soil either side of the trench.

During the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution the court heard that Wayne Cooper arrived on site late morning and took over operation of the digger. At around 12.30pm there was a delivery of shingle, then shouting was heard and it became apparent Mr Osborne had been buried in the trench in front of the digger. Emergency services attempted to save Mr Osborne but he was pronounced dead at the scene. 

The HSE investigation found that the drive was about three metres wide. The material excavated from the trench had been piled up alongside each side of the trench which had no means of support to prevent collapse and no barriers or edge protection to prevent falls into the trench. 

Wayne Peter Cooper, 40, director of Coopers Services Limited (Coopers Services Ltd is now dissolved) of Watchester Farm Cottages, Ramsgate, Kent pleaded guilty to breaches of Regulation 31 (1) (a, b and c) and 31 (2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. 

He was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for two years. He was also fined £75,000. If the fine is not paid with two years, Mr Cooper faces 18 months imprisonment. Prosecution costs of £25,000 were awarded against him. 

HSE inspector, Melvyn Stancliffe said after the case: “HSE’s sympathies are extended to the family of Callum Osborne, a young man whose life lay ahead of him.

“This was a totally preventable accident. Mr Cooper was an experienced ground worker and knew the way he was allowing the work to proceed was unlawful and highly dangerous. 

“This incident happened because of Mr Cooper’s failure to plan and manage the job properly. Had Mr Cooper taken measures to prevent a trench collapse at the planning stage or on the day of the incident, Callum’s family would not have to endure the heartbreak of losing someone so dear to them. 

“This was only Callum’s second day working for Mr Cooper. He would still be alive today had well established working practices been followed.”  

Callum’s mother Karen Hodgson said: “How do you express the sudden loss of your son? 

“My son was going to earn a day’s wage to support his family. Every person who goes to work has the right to come home to their family, but Callum never came home. 

“I find it difficult to understand, and still do, why this should have happened to Callum. There is not a day or night that goes by without me seeing my son laying on the mortuary table.” 

Notes to Editors: 

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to prevent death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training, new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement.
  2. More details on the specific breaches in this case can be found at:
  3. HSE information and news releases can be found here:

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