A SOUTH Tyneside-based ship repair and conversion company has been ordered to pay £98,500 in fines and costs after a worker was crushed to death when an anchor weighing almost three tonnes fell on him in a dry dock.
Kevin Watson, 51, of Redcar, was one of three men working for A & P Tees on a sand dredger in the dry dock at Teesport when the accident happened in February 2009.
The death was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), and it prosecuted the Hebburn-based firm for serious safety failings.
Teesside Crown Court heard how Mr Watson and his colleagues were ranging anchors on the dredger to lay out chains ready for inspection.
Despite several attempts, they were unable to get the starboard anchor to lie flat on the bottom of the dock, so they left it in an upright position for almost half an hour while they worked on the chains.
They then returned to the anchor, but as Mr Watson attempted to pass a chain sling under it to manoeuvre it into a flat position, it fell towards the vessel and landed on top of him. He died as a result of multiple crush injuries.
An HSE investigation found that though Mr Watson was trained to operate a dockside portal crane, he had no formal qualifications in lifting and slinging of loads.
It is also unclear how many times he had undertaken the ranging of anchors and chains before the fatal accident.
The HSE probe also revealed the company did not have an effective management system in place to inform supervisors and others of employees’ competence.
In addition, A & P Tees had not carried out or recorded an assessment of the risks associated with the ranging of anchors and chains, and there was no safe system of work in place for the task.
An improvement notice has been served on the firm.
A & P Tyne, the parent company of A & P Tees, had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to breaching the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act.
The Wagonway Road company was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay £23,500 in costs.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Victoria Wise said: “Kevin Watson lost his life needlessly because of the failure by A & P Tees to put simple safety measures in place.
“This was a tragedy that could have very easily been prevented if the company had assessed the risks and ensured a safe system of work was in place in relation to the task of ranging the anchors and chains.
“Lifting operations can be dangerous, and every year a significant number of people are injured or killed as a result.
“It is therefore vitally important to ensure that appropriate procedures are in place so that lifting operations are adequately planned and carried out in a safe manner.”