Canal trust fined following death of volunteer

A section of the wall collapsed while Peter Konitzer was inside the excavation

Peter Konitzer was fatally crushed when a section of wall collapsed onto him in an excavation at Pewsham locks on the Wilts & Berks Canal on 24th August 2016.

The 62-year-old had been inside the excavation removing temporary propping that was supporting the wall when the section collapsed.

Wilts & Berks Canal Trust undertook the restoration work as part of its project to preserve, conserve and improve the route of the canal.

A joint investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and Wiltshire Police found that the 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.

The trust routinely used volunteers for tasks including clearing rubbish and general gardening duties but had increasingly used volunteers for light construction works.

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

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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.”

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