Inadequate boat-access provision had fatal result01 October 2012
The owner of a dry dock has been fined £50,000 after an experienced boater fell to his death from an unsecured board.
Richard Ferris, 61, died after he slipped on a wooden plank and fell headfirst on to the concrete floor below at The Boatyard in Worsley, Greater Manchester on 26 May 2010.
Mr Ferris had taken his narrow boat to the dry dock to carry out maintenance work to the vessel’s underside while it was out of the water.
As he attempted to cross from his boat to the dockside, he stepped on to the plank, which was both unsecured and had no edge protection. The plank began to move and he lost his balance, falling nearly two and a half metres on to the floor of the dry dock. He suffered major head injuries and died in hospital later that day.
Manchester Crown Court heard that an HSE investigation found Worsley Dry Docks had failed to provide suitable access for users to allow them to move safely to and from their boats.
Worsley Dry Docks pleaded guilty on 21 September to breaching s3(1) of HSWA by failing to ensure Mr Ferris’ safety. The firm was also ordered to pay full costs of £15,185.
HSE investigating inspector Philip Strickland said the unsecured board was “a wholly inadequate way” of accessing boats at the dry dock, since boat owners regularly used the board to walk above a concrete pit several metres below.
“If a secured gangplank with a handrail had been in place at the time Mr Ferris was using the dock, then his life could have been saved,” the inspector said.
Mitigating, Worsley Dry Docks said Mr Ferris had been an experienced boatman. The firm had a good health and safety record and the lack of a secured plank had been an oversight. It said it had “dropped the ball” on this occasion.
The company has since ensured all of the planks at the dry dock have handrails, and that they are properly secured before being used, in compliance with a Prohibition Notice issued by the HSE after the incident.
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