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Port operator fined after worker injured by capstan

Date:
21 January 2016

An Essex maritime terminal worker suffered serious injury after his arm became wrapped around a powered capstan, while mooring an ocean-going vessel.

Basildon Crown Court today imposed a fine of £1.8 million on port operator C.RO Ports London Limited, after the company plead guilty to safety offences that contributed to the incident.

This prosecution followed an investigation by Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which found that, on 6 June 2014, the injured worker was one of a 3-man team securing a vessel’s heavy mooring ropes to land. The fingers of his left hand became caught between the rotating drum of a powered capstan and a heaving line. This caused his left arm to be dragged in and wrapped tightly about the rotating drum which was a few centimetres in diameter. The worker suffered multiple fractures and nerve and ligament damage.

The HSE investigation found that the defendant failed to suitably identify and control risk associated with the use of powered capstans at the port. Consequently, the system of work adopted was unsafe. Arrangements for instruction, training and supervision of workers using this equipment were inadequate, as were those for audit and monitoring of safety.

Importantly, the defendant failed to suitably heed warnings raised by its workers prior to the incident.

HSE later served an Improvement Notice (IN) requiring the company to suitably identify relevant hazards and control risk in accordance with legislation.

C.RO Ports London Limited, of Long Reach House, London Road, Purfleet, Essex, was fined £1.8 million, and ordered to pay full prosecution costs of £14,328, after pleading guilty to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

The fine has been reduced to £500,000 on appeal.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Glyn Davies said:

“This type of incident was totally foreseeable – indeed workers had already alerted their employer to risks arising from these particular capstans. This serious incident could easily have led to a fatality”.

“All capstans feature dangerous rotating components. Capstans are difficult to guard, so it is vital that all workers must be made to stand well away from the danger zone while they are in use. This can be achieved by measures including careful design of the capstans and surrounding work area, for example to keep foot-pedals well away from rotating components. Here, it is fortunate that an alert co-worker successfully operated an emergency stop device on the capstan, preventing further injury”.

“Employers should seek to cooperate with workers to improve standards of health and safety, encouraging all to report ‘near-misses’ or potentially dangerous situations. Clearly it is most important that employers investigate such concerns, and act promptly to implement appropriate safety precautions”.

Notes to Editors:

  1. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) 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. More about the legislation referred to in this case can be found at: www.legislation.gov.uk/
  3. HSE news releases are available at http://press.hse.gov.uk

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