Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

November 3, 2015

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Serco fined £200,000 following Woolwich Ferry deckhand fatality

A company has been fined following the death of a 19-year-old deckhand who died when he fell from a River Thames ferry in 2011.

Ben Woollacott, a sixth-generation Thames Waterman, died after being dragged from the Woolwich Ferry while mooring ropes were being untied.

A report by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch in 2012 found he suffered head injuries and was most likely dragged violently against the side of the ferry by the rope which was being wound in and had tangled in the vessel’s propeller.

He drowned despite his life jacket bringing him to the surface and the quick actions of his colleagues, it said.

The then company in charge, Serco Ltd, was found guilty of failing to ensure the health and safety of its crew. The company was fined £200,000 with costs of £220,000 at Inner London Court. The court cleared it of failing to ensure the safe operation of the boat, Ernest Bevin.

Andrew Rudge, from the MCA, said: “This was a tragic incident and our sympathy goes out to the family of Ben Woollacott.

“This case serves as a reminder that owners and operators of ships should review their procedures and risk assessments regularly, ensure they are fit for purpose and are being used correctly by their employees.”

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