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
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
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.”