The former safety manager at a windfarm where a 19-year-old worker plunged 100ft down a turbine shaft to his death yesterday blasted the management of essential safety equipment at the site.
Michael Murray, 48, said the installation where Basilio Brazao died on May 22 2007 was a “dog’s dinner”.
Mr Murray was the health and safety manager for wind turbine construction and installation firm Nordex, the main contractor at Earlsburn Wind Farm near Fintry, Stirlingshire, where the accident occurred.
Work colleagues found the victim, of Dunbar, East Lothian, lying near a ladder at the bottom of the turbine with blood coming from his head.
Giving evidence on the fourth day of a fatal accident inquiry at Stirling Sheriff Court, Mr Murray said: “We know what happened. The kit didn’t work. We issued a safety notice two days later and banned the use of it and we never went back.”
The safety equipment in use at the site included a German-made Haca fall arrest system – a safety rail bolted on to the ladder inside the turbine and a removable “slider”, which attached to the safety rail and to a worker’s harness. The system is designed to stop a falling worker from falling a long distance.
Asked about the management of the sliders at the windfarm by depute fiscal Gavin Callaghan, Mr Murray replied: “My honest answer is that it was a dog’s dinner.”
He said there should have been unique identification and a “passport” to record inspections, but said the Nordex Energy erection supervisor on site had the sliders “everywhere” in his office and the one Mr Brazao used was taken from a box there.
Mr Murray added: “It was a mess. Hands up, it was rubbish.”
He said when he first went on site at Earlsburn, in the Fintry Hills, around a month before Mr Brazao’s death, there were concerns around the alignment of the safety rails and the brackets attaching the ladders to the wall in some turbines.
He said the Haca fall arrest system was still in use at the site while the concerns were being worked through.
Mr Murray said he put a ban on the use of the Haca system in place but he was “leant on” to have it overturned due to cost, and the alignment issues were not resolved before the fatal accident.
He also told the inquiry that tests on the Haca system using a dummy by the Health and Safety Executive after the fatality resulted in a “mixed performance”.
Advocate Barry Smith, representing Nordex, asked Mr Murray: “Neither the rail nor the slider which was used at the time had any obvious defect which could have contributed to the accident, did they? He replied: “Not to my knowledge, no.” Mr Smith said: “Nevertheless the device failed to do what it was supposed to do, apparently.”
Mr Murray replied: “The question is, is it compliant? And is it safe? It was compliant, no question about that.”
Portuguese South African Mr Brazao was working for subcontracted family firm Turbine Erection Cabling Services.
The inquiry, before Sheriff William Gilchrist, continues today.
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