Director sentenced after worker dies

A company director was sentenced today after a trench collapse which killed a young father on only his second day at work for his company.

Callum Osborne, 24, died when a trench he was digging in Bridgefield Road, Whitstable collapsed in on him.

At the time of his death on the 7th April 2011, Mr Osborne, whose partner was eight months pregnant, had been working for Cooper Services Ltd and its director Wayne Cooper for just two days.

During the prosecution of Wayne Cooper, Canterbury Crown Court heard Coopers Services Ltd had been employed by a domestic client to connect new build bungalows to mains drainage, water and gas supplies.

Access to the site was along a narrow driveway and Wayne Cooper started the work on 29th March to dig a trench for gas and water which was back filled by 1st April.

Work was then started on the drainage – a few feet from the previously dug trench and by 4th April a manhole chamber was prepared at the entrance to the drive. This work was done by Coopers Services Ltd workers and over the next two days manholes and trenches were prepared around the bungalows.

On 7th April, Mr Osborne was acting as a banksman and taking measurements of trench depth while a colleague was digging the main trench down the centre of the driveway for the drainage pipes and banking soil either side of the trench.

During the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution the court heard that Wayne Cooper arrived on site late morning and took over operation of the digger. At around 12.30pm there was a delivery of shingle, then shouting was heard and it became apparent Mr Osborne had been buried in the trench in front of the digger. Emergency services attempted to save Mr Osborne but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

The HSE investigation found that the drive was about three metres wide. The material excavated from the trench had been piled up alongside each side of the trench which had no means of support to prevent collapse and no barriers or edge protection to prevent falls into the trench.

Wayne Peter Cooper, 40, director of Coopers Services Limited (Coopers Services Ltd is now dissolved) of Watchester Farm Cottages, Ramsgate, Kent pleaded guilty to breaches of Regulation 31 (1) (a, b and c) and 31 (2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

He was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for two years. He was also fined £75,000. If the fine is not paid with two years, Mr Cooper faces 18 months imprisonment. Prosecution costs of £25,000 were awarded against him.