$1 Million Fine in Confined Space Double Fatality

Britain's Health and Safety Executive prosecuted two companies and secured guilty pleas July 4 in connection with the deaths in May 2009.

Two companies involved in the Scottish aquaculture industry have pleaded guilty and been fined a total of £640,000, about $1.028 million in U.S. dollars, in connection with two deaths in the confined space of a barge in May 2009, the Health and Safety Executive reported. The July 4 pleas by Scottish Sea Farms and Logan Inglis Limited, Cumbernauld involved the deaths of Maarten Den Heijer and Robert MacDonald when they tried to rescue two other men who had gone below deck of a barge to find cabling and pipework.

Heijer and MacDonald passed out and died at the scene. Both of the men they attempted to rescue survived.

The barge was moored at a salmon farm, according to HSE, which said its investigation showed that the men were trying to repair a hydraulic crane on the barge. The atmosphere below deck had not been monitored for oxygen concentration, and the workers were not trained about oxygen deficiency or confined space hazards, the agency added in its news release.

Scottish Sea Farms was fined £600,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Logan Inglis Limited pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £40,000.

"These two men were trying to help save their colleague's life when they tragically lost their own," said HSE Principal Inspector Barry Baker. "Aquaculture is an important industry in Scotland and one that we can be very proud of; however we must not forget that the marine environment is dangerous and unforgiving. Since September 2007, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch has started three investigations into incidents in which a total of six seafarers have died in confined spaces.

"The deaths in this case should have been avoided -- the risks should have been identified and a clear and safe system of work prepared. Only those fully trained in confined space work and emergency rescue should have carried out the work in the chamber, and only after a full risk assessment, including air monitoring and testing for oxygen levels."

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