Port fined after worker injured

A PORT has been fined £100,000 after admitting breaking health and safety regulations following an accident which left a worker with serious head injuries.

A PORT has been fined £100,000 after admitting breaking health and safety regulations following an accident which left a worker with serious head injuries.

David Gammell, 21, plunged more than eight metres between two containers as he was working on a ship at Cliff Quay, Ipswich Docks on November 8, 2002.

The contract worker, who had been at the port for four weeks, suffered serious injuries, including a fractured skull and broken rib, and was in hospital for more than two months.

Ipswich Crown Court heard yesterdayhow Associated British Ports (ABP), which owns the docks, pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to provide adequate training in the wake of the accident.

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Christopher Kerr, prosecuting, told the court that the fall happened as Mr Gammell was working on a ship called the Werfen, in driving rain.

"The foreman in charge of the job found himself a hand short and asked Mr Gammell to join his team," he added.

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"There were specific risks in the case of the Werfen. Between each stow of containers there was a gap of around 2.5 feet – described by witnesses as a 'considerable stride'.

"Despite that gap, it had become standard practice for the labourers working for ABP to step over the gap without any means of protection.

"He had a tea break and then returned to the ship using the gangway. He stepped on to the first stow of containers and then he remembers standing near the edge.

"One of his feet slipped and he sat down on the container before he fell through the gap. He is sure that he did not try to jump the gap, but two other witnesses say that he did.

"The risk was, it appears, ignored by ABP who did not consider it, quite wrongly, to present a problem.

"We say that was unsafe and it was an ongoing, accepted practice of work."

Mr Kerr told the court that, Mr Gammell had undergone a two-day induction training course at the docks, but it did not specifically include container handling.

Mr Kerr added: "We say that the breach consisted of two factors – firstly an unsafe system of work was allowed to prevail over a period of some months.

"Secondly, Mr Gammell was provided with insufficient training and instruction. He had no instruction with regard to the particular risks posed by the Werfen."

Mitigating for the company, which has two previous convictions relating to fatal accidents elsewhere in the country, Toby Riley-Smith said there had been no other falls at the port since ABP took over in 1997.

He added: "Whilst the corporation has been swift to admit there was a flaw in its system, it maintains that the flaw did not cause the events of that day.

"There is no suggestion made that this is anything other than an oversight. There was a safety system in place for larger gaps.

"ABP fully appreciates that high standards of health and safety are required and it is of paramount importance to the company."

Handing the fine and costs of £5,927 to ABP, Judge David Goodin said: "The company had considered the gap and had not seen it as a particular hazard requiring a specific safety policy – but a particular hazard it plainly was.

"Had there been a system in place for removing the obvious danger posed then this accident would not have occurred – the risk was present and plain to see for some time."

After the case, a spokesman for ABP said: "The strong emphasis we put on health and safety in the workplace has enabled us to maintain a good safety record, relative to the rest of the UK ports industry.

"Following the conclusions of the Health and Safety Executive's (HSE) investigation, remedial steps have been taken. We have offered our sympathy to Mr Gammell and wish him well in his recovery."

Outside the court, Mr Gammell's solicitor Jan Parry said her client was still in rehabilitation for his injuries and will require further surgery. He will be seeking compensation.

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