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September 23, 2009

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Docks firm hit with GBP 266k penalty in wake of fatality

The largest port operator in the UK must pay £341,000 in fine and costs

after a failure to provide a safe system of work ended in the death of

a 60-year-old cargo handler.

Associated British Ports was sentenced on 21 September at Ipswich Crown Court after pleading guilty to an offence under s2(1) of the HSWA 1974, and was fined £266,000 plus just under £75,000 in costs.

The prosecution followed a fatality at the Port of Ipswich, on 30 March 2007. The court heard that Brian Vince was working as a ramp man, servicing a roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) ferry. He was standing on the linkspan, a drawbridge-type structure that connects the quayside to the moored vessel.

The ferry had lowered its ramp on to the linkspan, where part of Mr Vince’s role was to ensure that the ramp and the linkspan were level, thereby enabling vehicles to manoeuvre safely on and off the vessel.

In the main, Mr Vince stood to the side of the linkspan, away from the main flow of vehicles, however, his role often led him to move around the structure. He was standing in the middle of the linkspan when a trailer, which was being reversed up the ramp towards the ship, struck him. The driver pushing the trailer did not see Mr Vince because much of his view was obscured. Mr Vince died at the scene from severe crush injuries.

Investigating and prosecuting HSE inspector, Kaitav Patel, told SHP: “Vehicles could enter on to the linkspan without the say-so of the ramp man, which therefore created an unsafe system of work. Shortly after the incident, the company altered the system of work so that drivers wanting to enter the linkspan area had to be signalled by the ramp man.”

He continued: “The company had identified the risks to the ramp man, yet failed to prevent him being in a position of danger behind a reversing vehicle.”

In a statement, Associated British Ports said: “We would like to reiterate our very deep regret at the tragic loss of Brian Vince in 2007. We have accepted our responsibility for the accident that resulted in Brian’s death and would like to repeat our condolences and once again extend our deepest sympathy to Brian’s family. Brian was a loyal and valued member of our team at the Port of Ipswich, and his death remains a matter of great sadness for the port and the Group as a whole.”

Summing up the case, inspector Patel commented: “Workplace transport is not specific to the docks industry and many other industries can learn lessons from this tragic incident. Employers in all industries must ensure that the interaction between moving vehicles and pedestrians in the workplace is managed properly.”

He added that companies must also monitor arrangements and operations to ensure that employees are following any safe system put in place.

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