Mowi fined £800,000 for fatal safety breaches
Salmon farmer pleads guilty following assistant site manager’s death in 2020 accident
Salmon farmer Mowi Scotland has been fined £800,000 after an employee was crushed and drowned when he fell into the water during a transfer from a workboat to a feed barge.
The company pled guilty to health and safety breaches at Inverness Sheriff Court today.
The prosecutor told the court that on the afternoon of 18 February 2020 at Mowi’s Ardintoul fish farm on the south side of Loch Alsh the workboat Beinn Na Caillich was preparing to transfer assistant fish farm manager, Clive Hendry, 58, to the Sea Cap barge.
The ‘touch and go’ transfer would see the boat stop with one of its gates lined up with the Sea Cap’s ladder so that he could step through the gate on to the ladder.
Boat still moving
The Beinn na Caillich approached the Sea Cap starboard side on at half a knot, with the engines in neutral. This would have been just prior to putting it into reverse to slow the vessel to a stop and allow Hendry to step off to the Sea Cap’s ladder.
While the vessel was still moving slowly ahead, Hendry stepped through the gate, putting both hands and his right foot on the rungs of the Sea Cap’s ladder.
The boat’s skipper shouted in surprise as he did so and saw the boat hit Hendry in the right side. As the boat was now reversing it also clipped him on the left side.
A farm technician on board the Sea Cap saw Hendry “struggling and distressed” and having difficulty holding on to the Sea Cap’s ladder. He attempted to stop him from falling by holding on to his lifejacket and oilskin jacket, but the severely injured man slipped out of them into the water.
He was submerged for about 20 seconds and recovered from the
water shortly afterwards. Despite the efforts of colleagues, emergency services
and medical staff, Hendry could not be resuscitated.
An investigation by the Marine Accident and Investigation Branch found that Mowi Scotland 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 Sea Cap.
The company had also failed to provide employees with the necessary supervision to ensure lifejackets were properly tightened and secured.
Hendry was left responsible for his own actions in transferring to the Sea Cap. He had not been told what to do, nor what not to do when the workboat arrived alongside.
Mowi had not previously mandated the wearing of restraining straps and left it to the discretion of the wearer. Since 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 modified to allow the wheelhouse windows to open and public address systems installed to allow better communication between the helm and the working deck.
Unsecured ‘touch and go’ transfers have been stopped. Any transfers to or from vessels like the Beinn na Caillich now 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 now used to add reality to man overboard drills. The frequency of these drills is now recorded by the company to ensure that those on board are familiar with both the drills and equipment available to them.
Risk assessments and safe systems of work are now in place for all offshore activities.
Loved, liked, and respected
Speaking after the sentencing, Debbie Carroll, who leads on health and safety investigations for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, said: “Clive Hendry was much loved by his partner and a well-liked and respected man by friends and colleagues. Our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.
“Mowi Scotland Limited accepted liability and the Crown accepted their guilty plea to the contraventions of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
“Since this incident the company has introduced new risk assessments and has put into practice safe systems of work.
“Had these been in place at the time then Mr Hendry’s transfer from the Beinn na Cailleach to the Sea Cap would have taken place without incident and he would be alive today.
“Hopefully this incident should prompt other employers to consider their duties and that failing to keep their employees safe can have fatal consequences for which they will be held accountable.”
As well as the fine, a victim surcharge of £60,000 was also imposed on Mowi.
Speaking after the case, Catriona Lockhart, who was Hendry’s partner of 28 years, told the BBC: “I am just devastated to have to relive it again and just sit and hear all the failings again.
“The fine was never ever relevant – there is never a decent fine. There are no winners here, just losers.”
Lockhart, who is pursuing a civil case against Mowi, said she would continue to campaign for improved safety on fish farms.