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Salmon farm admits safety failures

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Pete Bevington

23 September, 2008

ONE of Scotland’s biggest salmon producer was fined almost £15,000 at Lerwick Sheriff Court (yesterday) after admitting a series of health and safety breaches on board one of their workboats.

The company, which employs 130 people throughout Scotland, appeared in court following the death on 19 March last year of Shetland salmon worker Martin Ramsay after he fell overboard as his vessel Conquest returned from harvesting fish.

Yesterday Mainstream’s financial controller Roger Dart accepted there had been shortcomings in its health and safety regime and had spent more than £100,000 improving its safety management systems.

The court heard that the company was not being charged with any direct responsibility for the death of Mr Ramsay, of Burravoe, Yell, who was survived by a wife and child, and that he had not been wearing a lifejacket when he fell into the sea.

However the subsequent investigation by the Health and Safety Executive and Maritime and Coastguard Agency had revealed an accident waiting to happen, with gaps in the guard rail, obstructions lying around on deck, lack of risk assessments and poor maintenance of lifejackets.

Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie said there was “no causal link between any failing on the part of the company and the death itself”.

At the time the 20 metre workboat Conquest was used to harvest fish from salmon cages in Aith Voe. The fish were killed, gutted and iced on deck before being hoovered through pipes onto a lorry at Voe pier for onward transport to local processing factories.

Mr Mackenzie said it was a “cluttered” working area where there was a risk of falling into the sea, added to by gaps in the guard rail. He added the lifejackets on board were “not in good repair”. One had a poorly secured cylinder and another had a faulty top up tube. “The effectiveness of the lifejackets is questionable,” he said.

The company’s agent Bill Spears said the gaps in the guard rail had existed on the board the Conquest when the purchased the vessel in 2003, and the MCA had inspected it regularly since 1997 and highlighted no faults.

Mr Spears said the company had immediately closed the gaps in the guard rail, which were there to help manoeuvre the vacuum pipes.

He said the company accepted there was “a structural failure to deal with health and safety issues” running through Mainstream, with management relying on individual skippers to handle safety matters, carry out risk assessments and check life jackets

“This is not an uncommon situation in the maritime environment,” he said.

The company has since updated its safety regime, employed a full time health and safety advisor and carried out improvements to the vessel, all of which had cost more than £100,000.

Fining Mainstream £14,700, Sheriff Graeme Napier said the company had allowed “fairly obvious defects to exist on the day in question.”

After the hearing, the company’s financial controller Roger Dart said: “In pleading guilty to three breaches of health and safety legislation in 2007, Mainstream Ltd recognises and fully accepts that at the time there were regrettable shortcomings in the company’s approach to ensuring that all of its health and safety obligations had been made.

“Since then the company has co-operated fully with the Health and Safety Executive and the MCA in meeting their requirements and has committed considerable resources and effort into improving and updating the company’s health and safety procedures in order to ensure that safety is a paramount consideration in all the company’s operations and that the failings on the Conquest that occurred in 2007 should not happen again.”

 


Most recent update - Monday, 20 October 2008 21:21
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