£640,000 Penalty for Confined Space FatalitiesWed 13 Jul, 2011
SHP Magazine | 05 July 2011
Two companies have been fined a total of £640,000 following the death of two workers who died while mounting a rescue operation on a barge moored at a salmon farm in Scotland.
Oban Sherriff Court heard that Logan Inglis Ltd had been contracted by Scottish Sea Farms Ltd to repair a hydraulic crane on a barge at Loch Creran, Argyll and Bute. On 11 May 2009, Logan Inglis engineer Arthur Raikes began examining the crane with Scottish Sea Farms worker Campbell Files.
Having identified that the fault was being caused by the crane’s hydraulics, the men accessed a concealed compartment below decks. Within a minute of climbing down the ladder into the compartment Mr Files passed out, while Mr Raikes felt light-headed and managed to climb back out. Two of Mr Files’ colleagues, Maarten Den Heijer and Robert MacDonald, entered the compartment to rescue him but lost consciousness almost immediately.
The three men were rescued by the emergency services but only Mr Files recovered and his colleagues were pronounced dead at the scene. An investigation found that the oxygen levels below deck were very low because water in the compartment had caused the formation of rust, which removes oxygen from the air.
HSE Principal Inspector Barry Baker explained that Scottish Sea Farms had failed to carry out a survey to identify concealed spaces on the barge and to prevent workers from accessing these spaces unless they had been given confined-space training.
He also revealed that Logan Inglis had not provided its employees with specialist training so they could identify confined spaces. He said: “These two men were trying to help save their colleague’s life when they tragically lost their own. Aquaculture is an important industry in Scotland and one that we can be very proud of; however, we must not forget that the marine environment is dangerous and unforgiving.
“The deaths in this case should have been avoided – the risks should have been identified and a clear and safe system of work prepared. Only those fully trained in confined-pace work and emergency rescue should have carried out the work in the chamber, and only after a full risk assessment, including air monitoring and testing for oxygen levels.”
Both companies appeared in court yesterday (4 July) and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. Scottish Sea Farms was fined £600,000 and Logan Inglis was fined £40,000. No costs were awarded as the case was heard in Scotland. In mitigation, Logan Inglis said it had fully cooperated with the investigation and has subsequently provided all of its engineers with confined-space training. In a statement issued fter the hearing, Scottish Sea Farms said: “Both Robert MacDonald and Maarten Den Heijer were highly-valued members of staff and our sympathies remain with their families. In memory of both men, we have created a remembrance area on the shores of Loch Creran.
“The company has always taken the health and safety of its employees very seriously and strives to improve safety for those working in the marine environment. It has had an extensive safety structure in place for many years and follows rigorous safety procedures.
“However, there were failings that allowed this accident to occur and it is on that basis that the company has been fined today. We fully cooperated with the HSE and Police investigations following the accident and have acted on the lessons learned.”