Two power companies plead guilty to health and safety failings after a man was killed when he got caught in the machinery of a giant turbine.
Technician Colin Sinclair was at the top of a 200ft turbine at Causeymire wind farm in Caithness when his safety harness become tangled in the high-speed revolving shaft.
Tain Sheriff court was told by Depute Fiscal Geoff Main that “the risk of entanglement was entirely foreseeable” in the events which lead to Mr Sinclain’s death in 2009.
German power company Siemens was fined £107,000 for a breach of the law resulting in Mr Sinclair’s death, while RWE Innogy was fined £45,000 for a lack of supervision of Siemens.
The court heard how Mr Sinclair, from Thurso, had stopped the rotor blades using a control panel inside a turbine and he and three others then climbed the nacelle, the housing area where the rotor blades are mounted.
However two metal guards were not in place, one had been removed because it did not fit a new gearbox and Mr Main said the absence of the other was unknown.
To carry out the inspection, the workers had to manoeuvre the 130ft rotor blades into the correct position. Mr Sinclair was asked twice if he was clear of the machinery, who answered yes.
Mr Main said: “Mr Sinclair’s lanyard, which was hanging down by his side, became tangled in the high-speed shaft coupling, causing him to be pulled in towards the shaft, resulting in him sustaining a large would to the back of his head.”
Mr Sinclair was unresponsive when released and died despite the efforts of emergency services.
Murdo Macleod, QC for Siemens, which ran and maintained the site day-to-day, offered the company’s “sincere regret” over the tragic death of a “valued and well-liked colleague”.
Peter Gray, QC for operator RWE Innogy, said the company had received assurances from Siemens over the problem of the guards.
An inspector from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Niall Miller, said: “This death was easily preventable and involved a risk well known and appreciated throughout all industries.
“It is disappointing this risk wasn’t addressed despite the lack of guarding being known to those involved. This incident should serve as a reminder to employers of all sizes that failing to take simple precautions can have catastrophic consequences”.
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