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,
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
'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
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
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