In the West Midlands, a worker has fallen into a sewage well as a result of health and safety negligence. The company he worked for has been fined.

The 34 year old worker from Walsall, who has asked not to be named, was working for Tardis Environmental UK at a partially completed housing development. He was attempting to clear a blockage at the bottom of the sewage well which had caused the pump to stop working. It had been clogged by a large amount of waste material such as paper and nappies.

The worker was using a road tanker with a pump and hose attachment to remove the waste from the sewer. He opened up a grid on top of the well and he was standing above it to manipulate the hose into the right spot. As he was doing this, the hose kicked back and as it hit him he fell into the chamber. He managed to grab onto the hose as he fell in order to slow down his fall and he was stuck at the bottom of the chamber, dizzy and disoriented before he realised that he had his mobile phone and was able to call for help.

He had suffered a head injury in the fall as well as friction burns to his arms, elbows and knees and had ingested raw sewage. If he had not been able to grab the hose on the way down, he could have even been killed.

When the Health and Safety Executive investigated, they found that the employee had not received any training in the correct and safe procedures for emptying deep, below-ground sewage wells according to proper health and safety regulations. The company was found guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974 and was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £3,000 in costs.

Although the worker was working at ground level, the depth of the pit meant that he should have been following the health and safety procedures for working at height. The company should have been responsible for providing him with equipment which would have prevented his fall, such as a harness or a restraint.