Plymouth boat firm's safety breach put teen at 'serious risk' at Sutton Harbour
A BOAT repair business has been fined £20,000 after it put employees it sent to work in a fume-filled fishing boat's diesel tank "at serious risk".
The two men, one aged just 17 and both untrained, were so worried about the dangers they faced that they stopped work and sought advice from a harbourmaster.
This led to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launching an investigation and preventing their employer, C&L Marine Ltd of Plymouth, from carrying out further work in the tank.
Plymouth Magistrates Court heard C&L Marine had been asked to carry out cleaning and welding work to repair a fuel leak in a tank on the Margaret of Ladram, in Sutton Harbour, in May and June 2011. The tank was one deck down and accessed from a small manhole below the vessel's net store.
It was 4.5m long and 2.25m deep at its most extensive point and curved in line with the shape of the vessel's hull.
The men were required to use buckets to empty the tank of about 600 litres of residual seawater and diesel, and rags to clean the inside in preparation for welding.
Magistrates heard the men wore normal work overalls and had no face masks on the first day.
They swapped roles regularly to provide a respite from fumes and the cramped working space.
One later recalled having a heavy feeling in his chest and finding it difficult to breath when he was in the tank and said he felt dizzy and faint.
The next day, the men prepared the inside of the tank for welding work. One man used a grinder, causing sparks to fall on his workmate who was holding a lamp to illuminate the work, and creating significant amounts of fumes.
The men abandoned the job and contacted staff at Sutton Harbour for advice.
The Harbourmaster visited the boat and halted work after the company failed to provide documentation and permits to show the tank was safe to work in.
The HSE was informed and served a prohibition notice on C&L Marine Ltd preventing similar work until safe methods for confined space work were in place.
HSE found no gas monitor was used to measure available oxygen in the tank and no gas-free certificate was obtained before beginning the task.
In addition, C&L Marine Ltd had not considered the need to provide rescue equipment such as harnesses, lifelines or lifting equipment or other appropriate emergency arrangements.
C& L Marine, of the Fish Quay, Sutton Harbour, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and three breaches of the Confined Spaces Regulations 1997.
The company was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £23,000 costs.
HSE Inspector David Cory, speaking after the hearing, said: "C&L Marine's lack of preparation for this work showed very significant failings which could have led to tragedy."One of the workers put at serious risk was a young man just beginning his working career."