New construction guidance to stop workers dying each week from occupational disease

Structural stability during excavations – drainage company fined for excavation collapse

Tyre removal, replacement and inflation – worker suffers loss of eye in explosion while inflating tyre


Following the recent HSE construction inspection initiative, during which 200 health related enforcement notices were issued, the construction industry has last week launched new guidance to encourage better management of occupational health risks. We open this week’s update with more information about the guide and how to access it.

Continuing along the theme of construction health and safety, a Slough drainage company has been fined £60,000 plus £39,506 costs after a worker was seriously injured when an unsafe excavation collapsed during work to lay new pipes. So we’re also sharing HSE guidance on structural stability during excavations.

And finally, we share HSE guidance on tyre removal, replacement and inflation, after reports that an Essex-based company which sells and services agricultural machinery has been fined £750,000 following an incident which left a worker permanently blind in one eye.

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New construction guidance to stop workers dying each week from occupational disease

The construction industry has launched new guidance to encourage better management of occupational health risks. HSE is urging the industry to put an end to the hundreds of construction workers that die of occupational diseases every month.

Inspectors issued more than 200 health related enforcement notices during the recent Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) construction inspection initiative.

This highlighted the widespread misunderstanding of what ‘occupational health’ means in the construction sector and the employers’ misguided perception that health is more difficult to manage than safety.

The new guide ‘Occupational health risk management in construction’ ( has been written by the Construction Industry Advisory Committee (ConIAC) Health Risks Working Group and formatted with the assistance of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).

It gives practical advice on what ‘health risk’ means for the construction industry, and the role of occupational health service provision in preventing or controlling those risks.

Ian Strudley, Chair of the ConIAC Health Risks Working Group and HSE Principal Specialist Inspector said: ““The misunderstanding of occupational health within the construction sector means that whilst the industry focus on managing the more familiar safety issues, serious health risks get ignored. We cannot let this continue.

“When figures show that construction workers are at least 100 times more likely to die from a disease caused or made worse by their work as they are from a fatal accident, the industry must take action.”

Shelley Frost, Executive Director – Policy at IOSH, said: “There have been huge advances in improving safety in the construction sector over the last 15 years but the industry has yet to generate such advances in improving the picture in occupational health.

“Every week, 100 people die from construction-related ill health in the UK. Less than half of construction workers also stay employed in the industry until they are 60.

“This new guide raises awareness of the occupational health issues in construction, demystifies how to best manage them and provides information as to where firms can get help and assistance.

“Ultimately, if the advice is followed, it could help to lower incidence rates of occupational ill-health and transform the perception of working in construction to that of an attractive and respectful industry with great career choices.”

The guidance is freely available on HSE’s and IOSH’s website (click on the links):

Structural stability during excavations – drainage company fined for excavation collapse

A Slough drainage company has been fined after a worker was seriously injured when an unsafe excavation collapsed during work to lay new pipes outside a home near Canterbury. He sustained multiple fractures to his left leg and was unable to work for six weeks before later resigning because of recurring pain and psychological trauma.

His employer was prosecuted, and fined a total of £60,000 plus £39,506 costs, by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found the excavation pit was missing vital shoring.

Folkestone Magistrates’ Court heard the injured worker was cutting and cleaning a pipe for rejoining at a depth in excess of two metres when a side of the pit suddenly gave way, creating a slip of soil and debris.

The lower half of his body was completely buried, with the weight of the material buckling his leg as it crashed down. He was dug out by a colleague and taken to hospital.

HSE established that there was nothing in place to support the excavation and prevent the collapse, despite this being a clear and common risk for this kind of work. There was also no evidence of suitable planning or supervision.

What you need to do

The law says you must prevent danger to workers in or near excavations. To maintain the required precautions, a competent person must inspect excavation supports or battering at the start of the working shift and at other specified times. No work should take place until the excavation is safe.

Commercial clients must provide certain information to contractors before work begins. This should include relevant information on:

  • Ground conditions
  • underground structures or water courses; and
  • the location of existing services.
  • This information should be used during the planning and preparation for excavation work.

Key issues are:

  • Collapse of excavations
  • Falling or dislodging material
  • Falling into excavations
  • Inspection

What you need to know

Every year people are killed or seriously injured by collapses and falling materials while working in excavations. They are at risk from:

  • Excavations collapsing and burying or injuring people working in them;
  • material falling from the sides into any excavation; and
  • people or plant falling into excavations.


  • No ground can be relied upon to stand unsupported in all circumstances.
  • Depending on conditions, a cubic metre of soil can weigh in excess of 1.5 tonnnes.

Trenchless techniques should always be considered at the design stage as they replace the need for major excavations.

Underground and overhead services may also present a fire, explosion, electrical or other hazard and will need to be assessed and managed.

Collapse of excavations

Temporary support – Before digging any trench pit, tunnel, or other excavations, decide what temporary support will be required and plan the precautions to be taken.

Make sure the equipment and precautions needed (trench sheets, props, baulks etc) are available on site before work starts.

Battering the excavation sides – Battering the excavation sides to a safe angle of repose may also make the excavation safer.

In granular soils, the angle of slope should be less than the natural angle of repose of the material being excavated. In wet ground a considerably flatter slope will be required.

Falling or dislodging material

Loose materials – may fall from spoil heaps into the excavation. Edge protection should include toeboards or other means, such as projecting trench sheets or box sides to protect against falling materials. Head protection should be worn.

Undermining other structures – Check that excavations do not undermine scaffold footings, buried services or the foundations of nearby buildings or walls. Decide if extra support for the structure is needed before you start. Surveys of the foundations and the advice of a structural engineer may be required.

Effect of plant and vehicles – Do not park plant and vehicles close to the sides of excavations. The extra loadings can make the sides of excavations more likely to collapse.

Falling into excavations

Prevent people from falling – Edges of excavations should be protected with substantial barriers where people are liable to fall into them.

To achieve this, use:

  • Guard rails and toe boards inserted into the ground immediately next to the supported excavation side; or
  • fabricated guard rail assemblies that connect to the sides of the trench box
  • the support system itself, eg using trench box extensions or trench sheets longer than the trench depth.


A competent person who fully understands the dangers and necessary precautions should inspect the excavation at the start of each shift.

Excavations should also be inspected after any event that may have affected their strength or stability, or after a fall of rock or earth.

A record of the inspections will be required and any faults that are found should be corrected immediately.

For more information visit the HSE web page or contact us on 07896 016380 or at and we’ll be happy to help.

Tyre removal, replacement and inflation – worker suffers loss of eye in explosion while inflating tyre

An Essex-based company which sells and services agricultural machinery has been fined £750,000 after an incident which left a worker permanently blind in one eye.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard how the tyre technician was working with a colleague to re-fit and re-inflate the tyres of a customers’ 4-wheel-drive agricultural vehicle. During re-inflation, one of these tyres exploded, causing him to be blown across the workshop, and to sustain severe injuries to his head and to the right side of his face.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated this incident, and found that the company failed to ensure that adequate instruction, training and supervision were provided to its tyre technicians. The company also failed to identify and remedy unsafe working practices that had been allowed to become the norm at its tyre depot.

Speaking for HSE after the hearing, Principal Inspector Norman Macritchie said: “This type of regrettable incident was entirely foreseeable considering the evidently unsafe working practices undertaken at the depot. A worker sustained serious and life-changing injuries which could easily have proven fatal.

“While all tyre technicians require suitable training, those inflating the large, higher-pressure tyres fitted to many agricultural, commercial, and construction vehicles need to implement key additional precautions – such as using a suitable inflation cage or bag.

“Employers undertaking this type of activity have a duty to ensure that staff are competent to inflate larger higher-risk tyres, to use a system of work that is safe, and to implement effective management systems to supervise and monitor such activities.”

Tyre removal, replacement and inflation should only be tackled by competent staff. The main hazards which can arise include:

  • manual handling injuries, which account for nearly a half of all tyre-related incidents reported;
  • tool-related injuries (which make up a quarter of incidents), particularly from handtools such as tyre levers; and
  • compressed-air accidents eg from a ruptured or burst tyre or violent separation of the component parts of the wheel. These accidents tend to result in serious injuries, including fatalities.

Safety during tyre inflation

Inflated tyres contain a large amount of stored energy, which varies according to the inflation pressure and the surface area of the tyre (eg the sidewall of a typical commercial vehicle tyre has to withstand over 34 tonnes of force from compressed air before additional carriage weight is taken into account).

If the tyre fails, an explosive force can be released at an angle of up to 45 degrees from the rupture (which is often, but not always, the face of the sidewall). This has resulted in numerous fatalities over the years. It is crucial that the airline hose between the clip-on chuck and the pressure gauge/control is long enough to allow the operator to stand outside the likely trajectory of any explosion during inflation. This will vary depending on the size of the tyre and its positioning.

Car tyres generally contain less energy than truck tyres and their size and profile make them less likely to fail catastrophically. Sensible precautions are still required, but a restraining device such as a safety cage is not normally necessary.

Light commercial tyres are now commonly found with pressures around 70psi, which may be sufficient to cause serious injury. If so, use enhanced safety measures such as those required for conventional truck/bus tyres. When inflating above 15psi this will include using a restraint such as (click on the link for illustrations):

Airlines should have quick-release couplings at both ends to allow the tyre to be deflated from outside the likely explosion trajectory if a fault (eg a potential ‘zipper’ failure of the sidewall) is detected. The valve connector should not require the operator to hold it place.

The pressure gauge/control valve should never be jammed in the open position, nor should ‘unrestricted’ airlines (ie without a gauge or pressure control device) be used to inflate any tyre.

The following YouTube video demonstrates the power of a tyre explosion resulting from inflating a damaged tyre (click on the link):

(HSE disclaimer (click on the link):

Special cases

Very large tyres such as those found in agriculture, quarries etc may be too big to fit into a restraint. Safe systems of work will need to be devised to ensure:

  • the wheel is restrained;
  • the effects of any explosion are contained safely; and
  • everyone stays outside the likely explosion trajectory

More information on safety in tyre inflation and deflation, tyre and wheel removal, repair and replacement (click on the links)

For more information visit the HSE web page or contact us on 07896 016380 or at, and we’ll be happy to help.

Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence



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