Companies fined £900k after scaffolder's fall

The uncovered hole

Both companies attended Plymouth Magistrates Court this afternoon in relation to health and safety breaches following a prosecution prepared by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR).

On 11th April 2023, a Kaefer employee was dismantling scaffolding inside a ballast tank as part of maintenance work on board HMS Bulwark at Devonport Royal Dockyard in Plymouth, a site where Royal Navy vessels are repaired and maintained.

On this occasion, an uncovered hole, which allows water to move between decks within the tank, lay below where the employee was dismantling the scaffolding.

He climbed down the ladder, but as he stepped back he fell 15 ft through the exposed hole onto the lower tank floor and broke several bones, requiring two months in hospital.

A previous incident on the same site, in January 2021, had already indicated the risk that the holes presented. On that occasion, a Kaefer contractor had fallen into the very same hole but managed to avoid serious injury. It was reported, but not followed up.

Related Information

Devonport Royal Dockyard Limited appeared before Plymouth magistrates on 27th March 2024 and pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that people not in its employment were not exposed to risks to their health and safety. It also admitted failing to ensure that its own employees were not exposed to similar risks.

Kaefer Limited pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the health and safety of its employees in relation to the risks arising whilst working at height.

District judge Jo Matson ordered Devonport to pay a fine of £750,000 and Kaefer a fine of £146,660, along with prosecution costs of £5,589.90.

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