Contractor sentenced after worker fatally crushed

A self-employed contract worker has been sentenced at Swansea Magistrates’ Court after an employee was fatally crushed when a trench collapsed.

The incident occurred in Pembrokeshire, where William Ryan Evans was contracted to build a drainage field at a farm. Two general workers and a subcontracted excavator were employed to carry out the work, which involved laying infiltration pipes at the bottom of several trenches.

On 26 June 2012, general employee Howell Glymdwr Richards was sent down into one of the trenches to remove some soil when the trench collapsed and fatally crushed him.

If your business employs people to work in dangerous or hazardous environments, it is your responsibility to ensure their safety at all times. As well as good health and safety policies, your business should also consider employers’ liability insurance in addition to the required general business insurance.

The death was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which found poor planning and inadequate risk assessment were responsible for the accident. It also found that the workers were not trained for the tasks they were asked to do, nor was suitable equipment used to prevent a trench collapse.

William Ryan Evans was found guilty of breaching Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 Swansea Magistrates’ Court and given a six-month custodial sentence.

HSE Inspector Phil Nicolle said: “This tragic incident could have been prevented by undertaking a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks, providing the correct equipment or safe working methods to the workers and managing and monitoring the work to ensure it was done safely.

“Work in excavations needs to be properly planned, managed and monitored to ensure no one enters an excavation deeper than 1.2m without adequate controls in place to prevent a collapse.”