SAFETY ALERT: October 2015 | Entrapment

Entrapment under compact excavator

Following a serious incident that has occurred this Safety Alert has been drafted to highlight what happened.


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The incident occurred as part of remedial work to install shallow ducts to facilitate replacement of some DC and CAT 5 cables in isolated areas around an operational solar park. The duct installations commenced at 07:30 and were scheduled to be completed at 18:30 as dusk was drawing in. The work had been undertaken by a labour only sub-contractor on behalf of the Operations & Maintenance contractor utilising a Takeuchi 216 compact excavator.

On completion of the duct installations, the excavator was being returned to the overnight parking area in the compound by a novice driver who was allowed to take the controls whilst the qualified plant operator followed to the side in his van having given some initial basic operating instructions.

On the route back to the compound the novice excavator driver who was not familiar with the site layout veered off the stoned access road and into an unseen shallow drainage swale causing the excavator to reel slowly before over-tuning. The novice driver panicked and attempted to jump clear through the open door but became trapped under the digger body. The angle of the swale bank and the direction of travel during failing daylight contributed directly to the incident.

The emergency services were called, and the fire brigade had to deploy compressed air lifting bags to raise the excavator to release the trapped driver, who fortunately didn’t sustain any major injuries and was able to return back to work on light duties a week later.

Points to consider

  • Only drivers who have been trained and carry a CPCS/NPORS skills card should operate plant.
  • Novice drivers should only operate plant under the guidance of a competent trainer/assessor in a controlled environment.
  • Work should be properly planned to avoid lengthy working days or attempted accelerated delivery without due consideration to operative fatigue, daylight hours and other precautions.
  • Ensure safe systems of work (RAMS) properly reflect the scope of work to be undertaken.
  • Inductions at commencement of work should incorporate site familiarisation and any constraints.
  • Assume that the verges and edges to recently installed access roads are soft and unstable.
  • Always ensure appropriate supervision is available to respond to emergency situations.
  • When designing surface water drainage systems consider the impact on temporary and permanent access routes, particularly where there is limited artificial lighting.

Issued by C.G Lawson: SRC

© Steel River Consultants Ltd – 2015
Image 1:Library picture

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