Fines issued after dockyard scaffolder seriously hurt

April 9, 2024

A man sustained numerous injuries after falling through a hole which should have been covered up, a court was told.

Devonport Royal Dockyard and Kaefer Limited were fined after scaffolder Arran Seymour was injured while working on HMS Bulwark in Plymouth. He fell 15ft through the hole in April 2023.

District Judge Jo Matson said the injuries had a “significant impact on his life”.

The court was told Mr Seymour was dismantling scaffolding inside a ballast tank as part of maintenance work for the ship on 11 April. As he climbed down a ladder, he stepped back and fell 15ft through an exposed lightening hole onto the lower tank floor. A lightening hole enables water to flow in and our of the ballast tank voids when the ship is at sea.

Mr Seymour sustained multiple fractures to his pelvis, a splintered wrist, a dislocated elbow and broken bones in his arm, hands and fingers. He spent two months in hospital and two weeks in a rehabilitation centre before returning home.

Devonport Royal Dockyard Limited (DRDL) and Kaefer Limited admitted health and safety breaches in relation to the incident, following a prosecution by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR).

District Judge Jo Matson said: “It is such the case, as in these types of cases, where had measures been put in place in the first place, Mr Seymour would not have been put in the sad situation that he has been.”

She added that both defendants should be “commended for their openness”.

DRDL pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that people not in its employment were not exposed to risks to their health and safety, as well as failing to ensure that its employees were not exposed to similar risks. The company was ordered to pay fines and costs totalling to £757,589.90.

Kaefer Limited, who Mr Seymour worked for, admitted failing to ensure the health and safety of its employees in relation to the risks arising while working at height. The judge ruled that the company should pay a total of £154,249.90 in fines and costs.

The court also heard of a previous incident on the same site in January 2021 when a Kaefer contractor fell in the same hole. He managed to avoid falling completely through, avoiding serious injury.

Dan Hasted from the ONR said it welcomed the outcome which recognised DRDL and Kaefer Limited “failed in their duty to protect workers”.

“This incident was entirely avoidable and was the result of a series of significant failings on the part of both organisations involved in this work,” he said, adding: “Nobody should go to work and not come home in a fit and healthy state.”

Kaefer Limited said it was “deeply saddened” one of their colleagues received these injuries whist at work, and it had since “supported his wellbeing and rehabilitation”.

The company said: “The health and safety of our employees remains our top priority, we have a strong safety culture, and are dedicated to achieving the highest standards in all our operations.

“Having completed our investigations into the event and determined the root causes, our teams are implementing identified improvements to procedures and sharing the lessons learnt.”

This is valid as of the 9th April 2024.

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