Firm’s £20k fine after propeller landed on worker

AN oil and gas service company has admitted health and safety breaches in an accident which left one of its workers seriously injured.

The Dales Marine Services dry dock facility at Imperial Dock, Leith with the survey vessel Fugro Meridian. Picture: Contributed

Dales Marine Services was fined £20,000 after pleading guilty to failing to ensure the safety of workers during a ship repair at its dry dock in Leith.

The company admitted failing to have a safe system of work in place, and failing to provide employees with training in slinging, lifting and lowering operations.

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The charges followed a foreseeable industrial accident on August 1, 2012, in which a half-tonne propeller dropped on to worker Colin Duncan, smashing the scaffolding access platform on which he was standing.

Mr Duncan, who was aged 29 at the time, fell three-and-a-half metres to the floor of the dry dock and suffered severe back injuries.

Livingston Sheriff Court was told that the propeller had just been taken off a ship and had been righted and lifted up prior to being lowered to the ground.

The chain which was holding it slipped off the propeller blade and it fell, hitting Mr Duncan on the shin and foot.

He suffered a deep, penetrating injury to the base of his spine which caused major nerve damage and he needed an operation under general anaesthetic to remove glass and other debris from the wound.

The court was told Mr Duncan’s consultant was wary of predicting to what extent he will recover from his injuries and, despite being prescribed medication, he still has problems sleeping because of the pain and is being treated for depression.

Louise Beattie, prosecuting, said: “Prior to the incident he was a fit man, who had previously served in the navy and who also worked out regularly and enjoyed rugby, football and hillwalking.

“He had returned to work for the company, working in their stores and undertaking driving jobs only non-engineering tasks as part of a general ­progression back to work, but as he was unable to complete his Modern Apprenticeship he no longer works for the company.”

She said a civil case had been settled recently, almost two years after the incident.

Gavin Anderson, defending, said the company admitted the health and safety breaches and said there had been confusion about who was responsible for overseeing the operation and deference shown to the makers men who were responsible for fitting and maintaining the propellor.

Passing sentence, Sheriff Susan Craig highlighted that the accident had been foreseeable, given the lack of a work plan at the company and proper training.

She said: “The risk ought to have been recognised and acted upon.

“That’s particularly true given the defence submission that there was a pervasive culture of deference to the makers’ men.

“It seems to me that the contractual niceties that there are between the company and whoever else is on site and deference to them that blurred responsibility in relation to the incident itself.”