Hardworking teenage apprentice’s death was ‘easily avoidable’ says HSE
A Sunderland-based marine engineering firm has been sentenced for safety failings after a 19-year-old apprentice was crushed and killed by a piece of machinery weighing almost a tonne. It was heard in court that the company had not taken sufficient steps to ensure it was safe to work on or near.
Jason Burden, from South Shields, was in his fourth year as an apprentice engineer at Tyne Slipway & Engineering Co Ltd (TSECL) at South Dock when a 970kg tunnel thruster from a ship overturned and landed on top of him.
Newcastle Crown Court heard on 21 January that on 8 December 2011 he was reassembling the machine on a work bench when it toppled onto his torso and left leg, causing fatal crush injuries.
A subsequent investigation by the HSE found that although TSECL was aware that the tunnel thruster — a gearbox and propeller used to manoeuvre a ship — was only notionally stable, it took insufficient steps to ensure it was safe to work on or near.
The court was told the company had no documented risk assessment for working on the machine while it was positioned on the work bench, and no documented safety management system for undertaking work on behalf of the thruster manufacturer.
The incident could have been prevented had the tunnel thruster been securely strapped or bolted to supports fixed to the workbench.
Tyne Slipway and Engineering Co Ltd, South Dock, Sunderland, was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay £47,936.57 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the HSWA 1974.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Paul Miller, said: “Jason Burden was a talented and hardworking young man. His death could easily have been avoided if his employer had properly considered the risks associated with the repair of the tunnel thruster and then ensured that steps were taken to guarantee the stability of the tunnel thruster while on the work bench.
“The risks associated with the maintenance of machinery must be assessed before work starts, and must take into account forces applied to the machine in order to ensure that appropriate control measures are used to guarantee the stability of the machine.”
Following sentencing, Jason’s dad Trevor Burden said: “We would like to thank the HSE and Inspector Paul Miller for bringing Tyne Slipway to court and prosecuting them for breaching health and safety law that ended in the death of our beautiful son Jason.
“Jason was the most loving, caring, hardworking and funny lad that you could ever wish to meet. His death has left a huge hole in all our lives.
“We are all heartbroken over his death and the pain is unbearable.”
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