Construction Firms Sentenced After Culvert Collapse

Two building companies have been penalised after a man was gravely hurt when a device that allows water to flow under roads collapsed on him.

Kent County Council appointed Enterprise to rebuild an old, broken brick culvert under Tudely Lane Tonbridge, according to testimony presented before the court’s maiden session. The majority of the work was contracted out to Topbond by Enterprise.

A culvert is a subterranean pipe that carries water from one side of a road or railroad to the other. It can be constructed of steel, brick, reinforced concrete, or other materials.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuting told the court that on 27 January 2012 water was being pumped out of the work area when three workers including 63-year-old Michael Skitt of Kingsnorth, Ashford, entered the area between two culverts in order to clear a channel for the remaining water to flow toward the pump head.

They had started to clear loose material, but had not started to dig.

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The old brick culvert fell as they were entering the area, saving their lives. Fortunately, one person was able to escape, but Michael Skitt was caught and critically injured.

Mr Skitt received various injuries including shoulder blade breaks, an open shin break and a dislocated knee. Ongoing difficulties with his foot may see him need further procedures. Mr Skitt spent 26 days in hospital and has since had to give up full time job and walks with a stick.

According to HSE, neither the stability of the building nor the extent of the planning performed to guarantee effective control mechanisms were adequately examined.

Because it was originally planned to demolish the old culvert early in the project, there was no way to account for how unevenly loaded it would be as a result of the uncovered side of the damaged culvert, according to the report.

Although culvert repair/replacement is a relatively infrequent construction operation, the collapse of excavations and structures is typical and the court heard the defendants in the case were made aware of the danger of collapse by the original designers/engineers multiple times.

If the culvert could not be removed early on, there are a variety of methods frequently utilised to hold buildings in place while construction is taking place.

According to the 2007 Construction Regulations (Design & Management), Enterprise (AOL) Ltd of the Sherard Building on Edmund Halley Road in Oxford confessed violations of sections 22 (1) and 28 (1) of the Regulations. Each of the defendants was forced to pay a total of £90,000 in fines and costs, plus an additional £22,876.

Kent’s Oyster Quay, Castle Road, Sittingbourne-based Topbond PLC guilty to violating sections 13 (1) and 28 (1) of the Building Regulations. They were also sentenced to pay £22,876.60 costs and were fined £70,000.

“This is a sad case that has changed at least one man’s life for ever,” stated HSE inspector Nicola Wellard after the incident. Because it had previously been damaged, the culvert needed to be replaced.

Even with this one piece of knowledge, both contractors should have examined the culvert’s stability during the operation and taken adequate procedures to guarantee that people were safeguarded from the risk of collapse,” says the engineer. “This could have easily been a multiple fatality because these risks are well-known, and that the other two men were uninjured is just pure luck.”

Last Updated on December 29, 2021


Author: Indra Gupta

Indra is an in-house writer with a love of Newcastle United and all things sustainable.

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