Poisonous or flammable gases and fumes

Lesson Progress:

Poisonous gases and fumes (such as those listed below) can be heavier than air and can ‘pour’ over the edges and start filling up an excavation or a confined space.

  • Exhaust fumes from petrol or diesel-powered plant.
  • Naturally occurring gases (such as methane) which seep out of the ground.
  • Fumes or vapours from solvents (such as welding plastic pipes, epoxy resins or sealants).
  • Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) and other pipe freezing gases.

Safe systems of work may include the following.

  • Using a gas detector to test the air before entry and then monitoring continuously.
  • Pumping in fresh air.
  • Using a solvent-free product that does not give off fumes.
  • Wearing breathing apparatus as a last resort.

Always be aware of gas hazards

You may not be able to see or smell gas in an excavation or a confined space.

If you are in an excavation or a confined space and feel light headed, dizzy or can smell gas:
warn others – get out – stay out – report it immediately.

Excavation collapses after dangers are ignored – Director and excavator operator jailed

A 52-year-old director of a house building company (working as the site manager at the time of the accident) has been convicted of gross negligence manslaughter following the death of a workman on a construction project in 2014. The conviction follows a nine-week trial at Northampton Crown Court into the death of a 33-year-old father-of-five whilst he was employed as a ground worker at a building site in Collyweston, Northants.

The court heard evidence of how the workman had been standing next to a deep trench, which had been incorrectly excavated by the excavator driver, when a wall of the trench collapsed, burying the workman beneath the collapsed material. Despite the efforts of fellow workers he was pronounced dead at the scene after his body was recovered. Northamptonshire Police and HSE investigators found that the sides of the trench had not been properly or adequately secured and that the site manager (the company director) and excavator driver both ignored basic safety measures.

In June 2017 the court convicted the defendants, as follows.

  • The site manager and director of the company was found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter. He was sentenced to four years in jail. He will spend two years in custody and two years on license. He was also ordered to pay costs of £90,500.
  • The seIf-employed excavator driver, who traded as a demolition contractor, was found guilty of a failure as a seIf-employed person to discharge his duty to ensure the health and safety of persons not in his employment, contrary to Section 3(1a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. He was also found guilty of failing to take all practicable steps to prevent danger, contrary to Regulation 31 of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. He was given a 12 month sentence and will spend six months in custody and six months on license. He was ordered to pay £20,000 towards costs.

Speaking after the verdict a detective superintendent from Northamptonshire Police said: This was a tragic loss of a young life that could so easily have been avoided.

The defendants were both experienced in ground works and failed to show even the most basic safety measures to prevent harm to workers, such as the young father who lost his life. He leaves behind five young children who are now being cared for by his parents. They were in court throughout the trial and have shown true dignity and strength despite listening to harrowing evidence. This has been a very lengthy and complex investigation and I would like to thank the jurors for their dedication and attention to detail during this long trial’.