Fife based Mowi Scotland Limited pled guilty to health and safety breaches at Inverness Sheriff Court on 9 May 2023.
The prosecutor told the court that on the afternoon of 18 February 2020 at the company’s Ardintoul fish farm on the South side of Loch Alsh the work boat Beinn Na Caillich was preparing to transfer assistant fish farm manager, Clive Hendry (58) to a floating permanent structure known as a Sea Cap.
The ‘touch and go’ transfer would see the boat stop with one of its gates lined up with the Sea Cap’s ladder so that he could step through the gate onto the ladder.
The Beinn na Caillich approached the Sea Cap starboard side on at half a knot, with the engines in neutral. This would have been just prior to putting it into reverse to slow the vessel to a stop and allow Mr Hendry to step off to the Sea Cap’s ladder.
While the vessel was still moving slowly ahead Mr Hendry stepped through the gate, putting both hands and his right foot on the rungs of the Sea Cap’s ladder.
The boat’s skipper shouted in surprise as he did so and saw the boat hit Mr Hendry in the right side. As the boat was now reversing it also clipped him on the left side.
A technician on board the Sea Cap saw Mr Hendry ‘struggling and distressed’ and having difficulty holding onto the Sea Cap’s ladder. He attempted to stop him from falling by holding onto his lifejacket and clothing, but the severely injured man slipped out of them into the water.
He was submerged for about twenty seconds and recovered from the water shortly afterwards. Despite the efforts of colleagues, emergency services and medical staff, Mr Hendry could not be resuscitated.
The investigation by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency found that the company had failed to make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment or maintain systems of work for the health and safety of employees when transferring from a vessel to a structure such as Sea Cap.
They also failed to provide employees with the necessary supervision to ensure lifejackets were properly tightened and secured.
Mr Hendry was left responsible for his own actions in transferring to the Sea Cap. He had not been told what to do, nor what not to do when they arrived alongside.
Mowi had not previously mandated the wearing of restraining straps and left it to the discretion of the wearer. Since Mr Hendry’s death, their use has been made compulsory and a more effective design of lifejacket introduced.
The Beinn na Caillich and other similar vessels have been modified to allow the wheelhouse windows to open and public address systems installed to allow better communication between the helm and the working deck.
Unsecured ‘touch and go’ transfers have been stopped. Any transfers to or from vessels like the Beinn na Caillich now only take place once vessels are secured, and the master of the vessel is satisfied that it is safe to do so.
Life sized mannequins are now used to add reality to man overboard drills. The frequency of these drills is now recorded by the company to ensure that those on board are familiar with both the drills and equipment available to them.
Risk assessments and safe systems of work are now in place for all offshore activities.
Speaking after the sentencing, Debbie Carroll, who leads on health and safety investigations for the COPFS, said:
“Clive Hendry was much loved by his partner and a well-liked and respected man by friends and colleagues. Our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.
" Mowi Scotland Limited accepted liability and the Crown accepted their guilty plea to the contraventions of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
"Since this incident the company has introduced new risk assessments and has put into practice safe systems of work.
“Had these been in place at the time then Mr Hendry’s transfer from the Beinn na Cailleach to the Sea Cap would have taken place without incident and he would be alive today.
“Hopefully this incident should prompt other employers to consider their duties and that failing to keep their employees safe can have fatal consequences for which they will be held accountable.”