Lowestoft firm fined for health and safety failings after worker plunged to his death

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- Credit: PA

A Lowestoft firm has been fined £100,000 for serious health and safety failings after a worker died when he plunged 23 metres from a platform into the sea.

Lee Bertram, 37, was working for Bilfinger Salamis UK Limited - which provides industrial services to the oil and gas sector - on a platform in the North Sea when the incident happened on June 16 2011.

He had been using ropes to abseil around an area of eight square feet below the deck and take photographs and remove debris that had fallen into the water.

However as he pushed down on his foot loop when coming back through the hatch on his way back up to the deck, both the main and the safety rope sheared against a sharp edge.

Mr Bertram, from Newcastle, fell into the sea, striking steelwork as he feel. A lifejacket and rescue vessel was deployed but, despite showing some signs of consciousness during the rescue, he died from his injuries before reaching the on-site hospital.


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An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the job Mr Bertram was undertaking had not been properly planned and was contrary both to industry guidelines and the company's own procedures.

Inspectors concluded that had the work been properly planned, the edge of the hatch would have been identified as being sharp and the risk of rigged ropes coming into contact with it could have been prevented. Instead the ropes were rigged against the edge, leading them to be severed.

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As a result the company of Pinbush Road, Lowestoft was fined £100,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 4 of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Following the case at Aberdeen Sheriff Court on Monday (February 2), HSE inspector Katie McCabe, said: 'This was a tragic incident and Mr Bertram's death could have been prevented had Billfinger Salamis planned the job correctly and put suitable safety measures in place.

'Assessing the risks of that job properly would have identified that the potentially sharp edge presented a very clear danger to anyone suspended and working on ropes rigged against it.

'However, the company failed to do this so failed to take safety precautions and instead, Mr Bertram fell to his death.'

A spokesman for Bilfinger Salamis UK Ltd said: 'On June 16 2011, Lee Bertram was working as a Rope Access Technician when he suffered a fatal fall whilst working offshore.

'Following the incident we openly communicated with the industry, shared our initial findings, and have subsequently been working with the authorities to fully understand the circumstances of the incident.

'Our thoughts at this difficult time are with Lee's family and friends.'

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