A salmon farming firm has been fined £800,000 after one of its workers was crushed and drowned as he was transferring from a boat to a floating structure.
Clive Hendry, 58, was killed on February 18 2020 at Mowi Scotland’s Ardintoul fish farm in Loch Alsh.
Mr Hendry was hit by the boat Beinn na Caillich and a floating structure known as a sea cap, before slipping out of his lifejacket and ending up under water for about 20 seconds.
On Tuesday, the Fife-based company admitted to health and safety breaches at Inverness Sheriff Court, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said, and was fined £800,000. It must also pay a victim surcharge of £60,000.
“Had these been in place at the time, then Mr Hendry’s transfer from the Beinn na Caillich to the sea cap would have taken place without incident and he would be alive today.”
On the day he died, Mr Hendry, the assistant fish farm manager, was preparing to board the sea cap as part of a touch and go transfer – where the boat would stop when one of its gates lined up with the platform’s ladder.
The Beinn na Caillich approached the sea cap’s starboard side at a speed of about half a knot with its engines in neutral, the Crown Office said.
The vessel would then go into reverse to slow it to a stop, to allow Mr Hendry to step off onto the sea cap’s ladder.
While the vessel was still moving slowly ahead, Mr Hendry stepped through the gate, putting both hands and his right foot on the rungs of the sea cap’s ladder, the Crown Office said.
The boat’s skipper shouted in surprise as he did so and saw the boat hit Mr Hendry in the right side. As the boat was now reversing it also clipped him on the left side, prosecutors said.
A technician on board the sea cap saw Mr Hendry struggling and distressed and having difficulty holding onto the Sea Cap’s ladder, the Crown Office said, and he attempted to stop him from falling by holding onto his lifejacket and clothing, but the severely injured man slipped out of them into the water.
Mr Hendry was submerged for about 20 seconds and pulled out of the water shortly after, the Crown Office said.
Despite the efforts of colleagues and emergency services he could not be saved.
The investigation by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency found that the company had failed to make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment or maintain systems of work for the health and safety of employees when transferring from a vessel to a structure such as the sea cap, the Crown Office said.
And the firm also failed to provide workers with the necessary supervision to ensure lifejackets were properly tightened and secured.
Mr Hendry was left responsible for his own actions in transferring to the sea cap, the Crown Office said, and had not been told what to do, nor what not to do, when they arrived alongside it.
And, the Crown Office said, Mowi had not previously mandated the wearing of restraining straps and left it to the discretion of the wearer.
Since Mr Hendry’s death, their use has been made compulsory and a more effective design of lifejacket introduced.
The Beinn na Caillich and other similar vessels have been also modified to allow the wheelhouse windows to open and public address systems installed to allow better communication between the helm and the working deck.
The Crown Office said that unsecured touch and go transfers have been stopped, and that any transfers to or from vessels like the Beinn na Caillich only take place once vessels are secured, and the master of the vessel is satisfied that it is safe to do so.
Life-sized mannequins are also used to add reality to man overboard drills.
The frequency of these drills is recorded by the company to ensure that those on board are familiar with both the drills and equipment available to them.
And, the Crown Office said, risk assessments and safe systems of work are in place for all offshore activities.