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Bournemouth firm director pays out £20,000 after worker loses leg in excavator incident

A director of a Wimborne building firm has been fined £2,000 and ordered to pay costs of £18,000 after a self-employed worker lost his leg working on a cottage extension.

A worker on the site had his leg trapped when part of a gable wall collapsed through the windscreen of an excavator, activating the machine’s reverse lever and causing it to run into the worker on the tracks.

Dorchester Crown Court heard on Friday that David Mitchell, a director of Ferndown Developments Ltd, had hired James O’Connor, from Winton, to work at the cottage when the incident happened on 29 April 2009.

A Health and Safety Executive investigation found the property to be on a sloping site, needing excavating below the level of the shallow cottage foundation to build the extension foundations.

Mr O’Connor, 42, was in the process of lowering the ground level when the gable wall collapsed, knocking him to the ground, with his leg on the track when the excavator reversed.

He suffered shoulder, back and leg injuries and had to have his right leg amputated above the knee.

The HSE investigation found that Mr Mitchell, who had been contracted to carry out the job, did not control the work in a safe manner, having failed to identify the need to support the building during the excavation and foundation stages of the project.

Mr Mitchell pleaded guilty to breaching Section 28(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

Speaking after the prosecution, HSE Inspector Frank Flannery said: “This was a very serious and wholly preventable incident in which a man in his prime lost a leg as a result of the omissions and failings during the planning and construction phases of the project.

“Had Mr Mitchell fully assessed the safety aspects of the work that he was contracted to do prior to starting, he would have identified the need to support the building during the excavation and the building of the new foundation.

“This would have allowed a structural engineer to be instructed prior to the work starting, and a safe system of work could have been determined.

“While welcoming the verdict today, the fact remains that this incident could have easily resulted in a more serious outcome and is a reminder to all those in the construction industry of their legal duties to manage health and safety.”

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