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Firm sentenced after teenage apprentice crushed to death

Date:
21 January 2014

A Sunderland-based marine engineering firm has been sentenced for safety failings after a teenage apprentice was crushed and killed by a piece of machinery weighing almost a tonne.

Jason Burden, 19, 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 today (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 Health and Safety Executive (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 did not take sufficient 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 Health and Safety at Work etc Act 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.”

More information about maintaining machinery safely can be found at http://www.hse.gov.uk/safemaintenance/heavy-items.htm

Notes to Editors

1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training, new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk

2. Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees. 3. Further HSE news releases are available at www.hse.gov.uk/press Media Enquiries Jill Barber, RNN:         0191 216 2159, jill.barber@cabinet-office.gsi.gov.uk HSE Out of Hours:     0151 922 1221

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