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PD Ports fined £400k after fatal fall

24 November 2015

A north east port has been fined £400,000 following the death of an agency worker who fell eight metres onto the steel deck of ship’s hold at Hartlepool Dock.

Robert Harrison, 59, from Middlesbrough, was one of six men who were loading 12m long steel pipes into the hold of a vessel at PD Teesport, at Hartlepool Dock, in Cleveland Road, Hartlepool, when the incident happened on 9 September 2012.

The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted PD Teesport Ltd for serious safety failings.

Teesside Crown Court heard how Mr Harrison, an agency worker, and his colleagues were standing on top of the stack of pipes. The stack increased in height as more pipes were loaded in to the hold using a dockside crane to lift and lower them into position in the ship’s hold.

Mr Harrison fell from the exposed edge of the stack of pipes, landing onto the steel deck of the hold eight metres below. He later died in hospital as a result of his injuries.

The HSE investigation found that there were exposed edges at either end of the pipes, ie, between the ends of the pipes and the bulkhead of the vessel and also the open edge, and the company did not provide appropriate measures to prevent or minimise the risks from falls.

PD Teesport Limited, of Queen’s Square, Middlesbrough, was fined £400,000 and ordered to pay £107,684.40 costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Cain Mitchell said: “Robert Harrison, a father of three, lost his life needlessly because of the failure by PD Teesport Ltd to put effective safety measures in place.

“This was a tragedy that could have very easily been prevented. The company should have properly assessed the risks and ensured appropriate measures were in place to reduce the risks of falling. The risk of a fall from an 8 metre stack of pipes was obvious. These precautions could have included the use of soft landing systems such as an air bag or cushion, which would have ensured no significant injury could result from a fall.”

More information about working at height safely can be found on the HSE website here.