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HSE ISSUES WARNING ON CONFINED SPACE WORKING

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The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has reminded employers ...
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has reminded employers

of the need to ensure that before employees are required to

enter confined spaces, proper safe systems of work are put in

place and enforced and that employees are adequately trained,

equipped and supervised.

This followed the prosecution in Cardiff crown court, by HSE, of Neath Port Talbot CBC, following the death of two council employees, Robert Simpson and Ryan Preece, in a sewage pumping station at Crymlyn Burrows, near Swansea, on 10 October 1996.

The council pleaded guilty to a charge brought under Section

2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and was

fined $#163;150,000. Costs in excess of£43,000 were also awarded

against the council.

Announcing his decision, judge Prosser said: 'This tragic story

demonstrates the need for employers to carry out with strict

care the helpful guidance available from HSE and others. It was

manifestly clear that this work involved serious dangers. There

is a need for a continuous sense of urgency on the part of the

employers of people undertaking this type of work. The level of

fine is intended to bring home to local authorities and other

employers undertaking such work that they must not underestimate

these difficult and dangerous jobs.'

Terry Rose, Regional Director for HSE's Wales and West Region,

said, 'These two tragic deaths could and should have been

avoided. The risks from entry to confined spaces, particularly

those associated with sewage, are well known. Any such chamber

may contain toxic or explosive gases, or lack enough oxygen to

breathe.

More...../

Fine...../2

'No one should ever enter confined spaces unless it is

absolutely unavoidable. When entry is necessary, it is

essential that the appropriate precautions are taken. The risks

must be carefully assessed and proper safe systems of work put

in place. People carrying out this type of work must be fully

trained, properly supervised, and provided with the right safety

equipment.'

Work in certain types of confined spaces has been subject to

specific law since the early 1960s, and this has recently been

clarified and extended by the Confined Spaces Regulations 1997.

Guidance on safe practice has been available for many years,

both from HSE and through other safety organisations and

industry associations.

Mr Rose emphasised that: 'There is no excuse for employers not

to ensure that suitable controls for confined space entry are

put in place. On behalf of everyone at HSE who has been involved

with this case, I would like to extend my sympathies to the

families of Robert Simpson and Ryan Preece.

'The real tragedy here is that their deaths could have so easily

been prevented if the right precautions had been taken.

Hopefully all Local Authorities and the many other employers who

undertake this type of work will check again that their

employees are fully protected, and make sure that there are no

further deaths.'

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