Union hits out at ‘paltry’ fine for Fife man who was ‘buried alive’

The incident happened in the village of Falkland
The incident happened in the village of Falkland

Scotland’s biggest construction union has criticised a ‘paltry’ fine imposed on a Fife company for health and safety breaches that led to a worker being seriously injured and permanently disfigured.

Wallace Roofing and Building of Star pleaded guilty to a number of charges under the Health & Safety at Work Act at Dundee Sheriff Court yesterday (Thursday), and was fined £14,000.

The charges were brought after an incident in September 2011, when a worker was buried alive in a collapsed trench on a site in Falkland when drains were being replaced.

Julian Kilbane was standing in a trench around nine feet deep and five feet wide when the workers came across a large rock blocking their path.

Mr Kilbane asked another worker to use an excavator to loosen it and clear the path, but when he did so, a wall of the trench collapsed, burying him in soil so that only the top of his head could be seen.

His workmates acted quickly to dig him free, saving his life, but he was left with punctured lungs, a broken collarbone, a broken shoulder and numerous broken ribs. The court heard that he had been left with permanent disfigurement and impairment.

Steven Dillon, Unite’s regional co-ordinating officer, said: “Each sheriff has to judge the merits of each case, but £14,000 seems a paltry sum given the nature of what this worker has had to suffer. Our thoughts are with him, his friends and his family.

“There is no need for workers to be seriously injured and killed on construction sites. We need to end the culture of complacency and profit-before-people. Every worker deserves to return home at the end of their shift, free from injury and harm.

“We rely on the courts to protect workers, and to protect us all. Unite does not believe that a fine of £14,000 sends a strong enough message about the paramount importance of health and safety at work.”