Wall collapsed and killed volunteer in 'tragic and wholly avoidable incident'

The collapsed wall
-Credit: (Image: No credit)

A canal trust has been fined after a wall collapsed and killed a volunteer. Peter Konitzer was fatally crushed in the incident at Pewsham Locks in Chippenham, Wiltshire, on 24 August 2016.

The 62-year-old was helping with restoration work on the Wilts and Berks Canal. He had been inside the excavation removing temporary propping that was supporting the wall when the section collapsed.

A joint investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Wiltshire Police found Wilts & Berks Canal Trust had failed to ensure the safety of volunteers who were working within the excavation. The temporary propping was inadequate and there was no clear method for the safe installation or removal of props during this renovation work.

READ MORE: Bristol Zoo housing development confirmed as council and zoo bosses reach agreement

READ MORE: Somerset seaside town faced with influx of people moving from Bristol

The trust routinely used volunteers to assist in work to undertake tasks including clearing rubbish and overgrowth from various canal sites and general gardening type duties but had increasingly used volunteers for light construction works.

Wilts & Berks Canal Trust, of Dauntsey Lock, Chippenham, Wiltshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The trust was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £10,822 in costs at Swindon Magistrates' Court on June 24, 2024.

HSE inspector James Lucas said: "This was a tragic and wholly avoidable incident. The situation which led to Peter's death would not have arisen had the temporary structural works been properly planned and implemented to ensure a suitable safe system of work prior to the incident."

"It is essential that those in control of work of this nature devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction, and training to their workers to ensure their safety."