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October 2, 2013

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Poor systems of work resulted in tall ship blaze


The aftermath of the devastating fire on board the Malcolm MillerA yacht company has been sentenced for safety failings relating to a fire that ravaged a famous tall ship and almost killed a worker.
On 27 September, Winchester Crown Court heard that Yacht Project Associates Ltd (YPAL) and company director Allan Foot were principal contractors for a major refurbishment of the badly damaged ‘Malcolm Miller’ tall ship, at the Hythe Marina in Hampshire.  
Rolf Kitching, 45, from Portsmouth, was employed by a separate company and was welding in a saloon area on steelwork that had been sprayed with insulation foam when the fire broke out on 10 June 2008.
Members of the crew noticed the fire had broken out and realised Mr Kitching was still on the vessel. One of the crew donned breathing apparatus and went in to rescue him.
Mr Kitching was found unconscious and is unable to recall, and noone else knows, what happened to set off the fire. He sustained 40 per cent burns to his upper torso and head and was hospitalised for four months as a result of the incident. So extensive were his burns, he wasn’t expected to survive. Although he pulled through, he is still too ill to work and is reliant on medication.
An investigation by the HSE found that a small fire had occurred earlier the same morning in roughly the same place, but had self-extinguished. The court heard that the incident had not been investigated or properly dealt with; all work should have stopped, systems of work should have been reviewed and a risk assessment should have been conducted.
The HSE also found that hot work on board the ship was poorly controlled and managed by YPAL and Allan Foot. The court was told that the incident could have been prevented had better systems been in place. 
The judge said there were no emergency plans or arrangements in place, no permit to work and no hot work systems. In addition, there was no fire watch in place at the time of the incident.
Yacht Project Associates Ltd, of Ringwood Road, Sopley, Christchurch, was fined a total of £25,000 and ordered to pay £65,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the HSWA 1974.
The same two charges against Allan Foot, of the same address, were left to lay on file.
Following the hearing, HSE inspector Angela Sirianni, said: “We will never know the exact circumstances of what happened on board the Malcolm Miller, but the end result is that Mr Kitching has suffered acutely painful trauma and years of ill health as a result of an incident that was preventable.
“The system of work was clearly unsafe, and should have been better managed. All hot work poses risks, especially in a confined area where toxic and flammable substances are present. A suitable and sufficient risk assessment is a necessity, and the work must be carefully controlled at all times.”
In mitigation, the company pleaded guilty, had no previous convictions and co-operated with the investigation. 

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