Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Firm fined after worker buried alive in Falkland

Millfield House Image copyright Google

A firm has been fined £14,000 after a worker was buried alive when a trench collapsed on him.

Julian Kilbane, 43, was left with punctured lungs, a broken collarbone, a broken shoulder and numerous broken ribs in the accident.

It happened at Millfield House in Falkland, Fife, on 29 September 2011.

At Dundee Sheriff Court Wallace Roofing and Building pleaded guilty to a number of charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

The company admitted failing to provide sufficient training to staff, failing to maintain a safe system of work and failing to make a suitable risk assessment as a result of which a trench collapsed trapping Mr Kilbane and causing him severe injury, permanent disfigurement and permanent impairment.

No safety training

An investigation found that, while the company were experienced in the building industry, no-one had received any formal health and safety training for managing a construction site.

And none of the company's employees were familiar with making risk assessments.

The court heard that, although only the very top of Mr Kilbane's head was exposed, colleagues managed to dig some of the soil away from him.

Fiscal depute Lynn Jamieson said Mr Kilbane had been working to connect drains on an extension to a sewer when the incident happened.

He was standing in a 9ft-deep (3m) trench when the workmen came across a large rock blocking their path.

Mr Kilbane asked another worker to use an excavator to loosen it and clear the path.

However, when he did so, one wall of the trench collapsed.

Intensive care

Miss Jamieson said: "This buried Mr Kilbane to the extent that only the top of his head could be seen above the soil.

"The other workers heard a loud bang and immediately went to investigate and assisted in trying to dig Mr Kilbane out.

"They started digging the soil away from his head to allow him to breathe.

"He remained partially buried in the trench until the emergency services arrived."

She said Mr Kilbane spent six days in intensive care followed by five days in the high dependency unit and four days on a ward.

"He has been advised he has scar tissue on his lungs from his broken ribs which causes him to get breathless when he walks for several minutes," Miss Jamieson added.

"He has been told this will not improve and he has the lungs of someone 30 years older than him."

She said Mr Kilbane had also been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and still suffered from some effects.

The court was told that the company's directors had now taken courses and training in health and safety and pledged not to undertake work in deep excavations in the future.

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