VolkerRail Ltd. was found to have failed to prevent danger to workers undertaking excavation work beside the railway.
The incident happened on 6 July 2014, when an employee was working in a trench as part of a project carrying out excavation work outside Stafford railway station. The wall of the trench collapsed, burying the worker.
The worker suffered serious injuries including a broken pelvis and several broken ribs. He underwent surgery on his pelvis, stomach and lungs and was placed in an induced coma.
By 2021 he was still in pain and no longer able to work full time.
At the time of the collapse, the excavation was approximately two metres deep and had been constructed without any support to the sides.
In its investigation, ORR found the company did not use temporary works (such as trench supports) to shore up the excavation despite evidence of unstable ground conditions, and expert evidence shows that had they done so the collapse would not have occurred.
ORR also found VolkerRail Ltd. did not adequately brief its construction team on how to complete tasks and was not following its own methods. In addition, poor management meant failings were not corrected and complaints were not fully acted upon.
Sentence was passed by His Honour Judge Smith at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court on Friday 13 May 2022, following ORR’s prosecution.
In his remarks, HH Judge Smith said trench supports had been delivered to site but were not used, and proper consideration was never given to the use of temporary works. HH Judge Smith also said it was clear that some concerns were raised regarding the work, and whilst some steps were taken following these concerns, the methodology was not fully adapted.
Ian Prosser CBE, HM Chief Inspector of Railways at ORR, said:
Notes to Editors
- The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) is the independent economic and safety regulator for Britain’s railways, and scrutinises the performance and efficiency of England’s strategic road network.
- VolkerRail Ltd. is a multi-disciplinary railway infrastructure contractor delivering projects on the UK's national rail network, working with Network Rail and London Underground, as well as most of the light rail and tram organisations in the UK.
- VolkerRail Ltd. has been issued with a fine of £550,000 and ordered to pay costs of £85,415.94.