Marine firm fined after deaths

A MARINE engineering company has been fined £100,000 after it admitted breaching health and safety regulations which led to the death of two of its employees.

A MARINE engineering company has been fined £100,000 after it admitted breaching health and safety regulations which led to the death of two of its employees.

Brian Dove , 55, from Butt Lane, Burgh Castle, near Yarmouth, and his stepson Charlie Buckenham , 52, of Hardy Close, Lowestoft, died while inspecting a disused fuel tank while working for Small and Co in March 2003.

The pair were found dead in the tank on the shore of Lake Lothing by emergency services after a seven-hour rescue operation.

Yesterday Small and Co Marine Engineering, of Commercial Road, Lowestoft, were fined £100,000 at Ipswich Crown Court, and ordered to pay costs of £29,450 after admitting failing to ensure the health and safety of its employees.

Civil engineers, Edmund Nuttall Ltd, which owned the tank, were fined £25,000 and ordered to pay £29,450 costs after admitting to failing to ensure the health and safety of people not in their employment.

The charges followed an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

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During the hearing the court heard how the men were inspecting the tanks to give Edmund Nuttall, which has its headquarters in Surrey, a quote before removal.

It is believed that Mr Buckenham clambered through an inspection hatch in an attempt to rescue his stepfather, who had gone into the tank, but had not come out. Both men died due to lack of oxygen.

Sentencing the companies Judge John Holt said that because the ballast tanks had not been opened for years the rusting process had robbed the air of oxygen meaning that any individual that entered would lose consciousness within seconds.

"Working in confined spaces is specialised work that requires specialised training and those with training would know of the dangers," he added.

"I believe Mr Dove deliberately entered the tank as the size of the narrow opening rules out him falling in by accident but he would not have entered if he had any idea of the potential risks.

"Although he was the man in the company with the most experience in confined spaces he had not received specialist training - he had only had general awareness training.

"He would not have entered the tank if he had been properly trained for this work and there had been in place before he started a proper risk assessment on working in confined spaces.

"Mr Buckenham had not even had awareness training and should at least have been trained not to put himself in danger and so not to enter the tank when trying to rescue Mr Dove."

He added that the case against Nuttalls was "less serious" and that they had "significantly less criminality" but as owners of the tanks the company was still responsible in part because they had not completed a risk assessment on the structures.

Speaking after the sentencing Clayton Buckenham, Charlie's brother, said that the family was happy with the outcome.

"We're pleased that both companies have pleaded guilty but whatever happened we knew that they could never bring my brother and step-dad back.

"Money has never had anything to do with this. We just hope no other family goes through what we have been through.

"The important thing is that the companies admitted that they were responsible for two people's lives. That's what we were after.

"We would just like to say a big thank you to the health and safety officers for the last few years because they really helped us through a hard time."

Eddie Scoggins, HM inspector of health and safety, said that the case highlighted the dangers of working in confined spaces and the importance of employees having proper training in those circumstances.

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