The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Court Case Highlights Confined Space Risk

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The risk involved in  confined space entry work has again been highlighted by a court case in Scotland ruling on the unfortunate deaths of two men on a fish farm barge in Argyll.

Maarten Pieter Den Heijer, 30, and 45-year-old Robert MacDonald died on Loch Creran, near Oban, whilst working for Scottish Sea Farms and an engineering company called Logan Inglis.

In the court case held in February 2012, Scottish Sea Farms was fined £333,335 and Logan Inglis was fined £20,000 over the two men's deaths.

The court heard how Scottish Sea Farms worker Campbell Files and engineer Arthur Raikes - employed by Logan Inglis - were fixing a hydraulic crane on the barge when they went below deck to find cabling and pipework.

The oxygen levels below deck were very low and Mr Files passed out while Mr Raikes managed to climb back out.

In an attempt to rescue Mr Files, his Scottish Sea Farms colleagues Mr Den Heijer and Mr MacDonald entered the small chamber below deck but lost consciousness almost immediately.

The three men needed to be rescued by emergency services but only Mr Files recovered.

Following the incident on 11 May 2009, inspectors from the UK HSE discovered Scottish Sea Farms had failed to suitably prepare staff for working in the small, sealed chambers on the Loch Creran barge.

Logan Inglis was also found to have failed in its duties to staff in terms of information provided and training.

Neither company had identified the risk to their respective employees from working in the confined spaces.

Both firms pleaded guilty to breaches of safety rules.

The court heard that both firms had good records on health and safety matters.

Scottish Sea Farms was said to have an annual turnover of almost £94 million. For Logan Inglis the figure was more than £2.7 million.

The appeal judges were told the engineers had been hit by the economic downturn and that if the fine was too heavy it could lead to redundancies.

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