£5,000 fine for Marine Harvest
A HEALTH and safety defect was said to have ‘slipped through the net’ by one of Scotland’s largest salmon producers as it was fined £ 5,000 for an accident at its Glenfinnan site.
Marine Harvest Scotland Limited was handed the penalty in Fort William Sheriff Court in relation to an accident which took place on August 2015 involving Heather Pickard.
William Glen and Steve Bracken attended on behalf of Marine Harvest on Tuesday (October 8) as the company accepted responsibility for failing to ensure relevant health and safety measures were taken at Salmon Bay on Loch Sheil between September 17, 2014, and August 17, 2015.
In particular, the company failed to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery – namely a sluice valve of a hopper which connects to a fish feeder.
It was this failure which lead to Heather Pickard suffering severe injury and permanent disfigure as her hand was pulled into a valve which had not been isolated or guarded.
Ms Pickard had placed a bag used to collect calibration samples onto the hopper when the ‘terrible accident’ happened.
In reference to photographs and information which had been provided to him in advance of the hearing, Sheriff William Taylor said: ‘ What troubled me the most was that the isolator was not in reach and that the mesh was too narrow.
‘What was required was wider mesh, and a safety guard was not there because it was widely shot to one side as it had so many defects.’
The company’s defence lawyer agreed with the sheriff and said that, up until the accident, the employees at Glenfinnan did not appreciate the guard and that there was an expectation that nothing would happen as a result of moving it – that there would be no danger.
The court also heard that the manager was required to have monthly health and safety meetings and that this was reflected by way of bonuses, that monthly audits took place, and yet, in hindsight, this ‘glaringly obvious defect’ went unnoticed.
The solicitor added that the company described this as wholly regrettable and that the defect had ‘slipped through the net’.
Ms Pickard chose not to attend the hearing but the court heard she had returned to work in February of this year, that she and her colleagues had been offered counselling following the accident courtesy of Marine Harvest which had also or- ganised physiotherapy for her. Furthermore, she had received full pay and bonuses while she was recovering and had been promised to be redeployed if she was unable to go back to her former position at the same pay but thankfully this had not been necessary.
The company had taken measures to ensure the defects were fixed immediately after the incident and that despite its size, Marine Harvest had previously enjoyed 50 years of good trading and that this was its first offence.
In summing up, Sheriff Taylor said: ‘According to the investigation the accident was foreseeable in the circumstances and ought to have been foreseen.’
The £ 5,000 fine given was reduced from £7,500 due to the early plea and reaction by Marine Harvest which was described to have behaved responsibly since the accident. In a statement given to The
Oban Times, Ben Hadfield, Marine Harvest Scotland managing director, said: ‘ We are extremely sorry this accident ever happened and have put in place various measures to prevent something like this happening again.
‘Heather is back at her work and her resilience in making a good recovery and her determination to return to work has been remarkable.’