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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

HS2 worker died in horrific construction site incident as safety rules 'not followed'

Safety rules 'were not followed' and could have prevented the death of a HS2 worker who was struck by a coiled pipe in a horrific incident. A coroner has ruled that Charles Harper's death could have been prevented if recommended safety procedures had been followed.

Mr Harper died in hospital a day after the tragic incident on-site near Hollywell Brook in Birmingham last April, reports BirminghamLive. A coiled pipe was being dispensed from a trailer into a 100-metre hole.

The inquest heard that Mr Harper was standing "sufficiently close" to the trailer when energy was released from the hole which caused the tail end of the coiled pipe to spring, striking him in the chest.

The impact of the blow caused serious abdominal and chest injuries. Mr Harper was rushed to hospital but sadly died the next day.

An investigation around the circumstances of the incident and what safety precautions had been in place on the site had been ordered by Birmingham coroner James Bennett. In his report, he explained the operating manual for the trailer instructed that the tail end of the coiled pipe should be secured to the trailer by a restraining clamp and strap because of the risk of energy causing it to spring.

"No such securing mechanism was utilised on April 27, 2023 and this contributed to Mr Harper’s death," the coroner said. But Mr Bennett said his investigations had found not securing the pipe had become widespread at drilling sites.

The use of "exclusion zones" which should be kept clear of workers may "provide a false sense of security", he added. The coroner went on to say he believes there is a risk of more deaths happening at construction sites if safety measures are not improved and has written to industry bosses to express his concerns.

Mr Bennett wrote in his Report to Prevent Future Deaths: "The trailer manufacturer in this case indicated – although their instructions make it clear the tail end of coiled pipe should always be secured to the trailer, and that clamps/straps were effective in preventing springing of the tail end of coiled pipe - an intention to do further testing around the forces generated when stored energy is released, the effectiveness of clamps and straps to restrain the tail end of coiled pipe, and consideration of cages being installed around trailers. This will take some time and will require collaboration with pipe coil manufacturers and pipe coil dispensers.

"The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) indicated the facts will be considered by the relevant sector division who will decide what if any proactive health and safety action to take. This will also take some time." He added: "In my opinion there is a risk that future deaths will occur unless action is taken, you are in a position to take preventative action, and therefore in the circumstances it is my statutory duty to report to you."

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