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Firms fined £900,000 over Ayrshire wind farm worker’s death

Two firms have been fined nearly £900,000 over the death of a security worker left in freezing conditions at a wind farm in East Ayrshire.

Ronnie Alexander, 74, died in January 2018 after being found face down in the snow near New Cumnock.

A construction company and his employer earlier admitted breaching health and safety rules by failing to provide a reliable source of heat.

His family welcomed the large fines but said it was a “bittersweet” moment.

Northstone (NI) Ltd was fined £768,000 – reduced from £1.2m due to an early plea at Ayr Sheriff Court. Corporate Services Management was ordered to pay £100,800, which was reduced from £180,000.

Both companies admitted failing to provide a reliable source of heating at the Afton wind farm.

The tragedy unfolded on 21 January 2018, after The Met Office issued a yellow “be aware” warning for heavy snow across large swathes of Scotland.

Mr Alexander’s family became concerned when he failed to return from a 12-hour shift at the wind farm.

They tried to call his mobile phone but the signal at the construction site was patchy, and they could not make contact.

A search was mounted for Mr Alexander after his grandson raised the alarm at about 20:20.

The court heard that two generators failed, leaving him without heat, light or electricity – and there was no back-up supply of power.

The family were told at 01:00 that Police Scotland’s Mountain Rescue Team had found the security guard about a mile from his cabin and more than six hours after his shift finished.

He was airlifted off the site with a younger colleague who was also exposed to the heavy snow and cold.

Mr Alexander died in hospital the following day, and the cause of death was confirmed as hypothermia.

‘Gobsmacked by fines’

Mr Alexander’s family said they were “gobsmacked” by the level of fines handed out.

In a statement released through Digby Brown Solicitors, they said: “We had to wait years just to get the conviction, but now that we have the sentence we can now say we have justice.

“We are gobsmacked at the level of fine handed down by the sheriff – we certainly welcome it.

“But ultimately it is all bittersweet because at the end of the day we are still without Ronnie and no punishment can change that.

“We’d just like to thank all our friends and family for their support during this time.”

‘Unacceptable risk’

Mr Alexander was employed by Corporate Services Management – known as CSM Facilities – and Northstone is the parent company of Farrans Construction, the wind farm contractor for the site.

Following the initial court hearing, Northstone issued a statement in which it expressed its deep regret and said the company took “immediate action” to prevent a re-occurrence.

A Crown Office spokesman said: “Ronnie Alexander’s death might have been prevented if appropriate measures for workers to call for help in an emergency had been in place.

“By failing to ensure the safety of the workers on such a remote site, both Northstone (NI) Ltd and Corporate Service Management Ltd left them in unacceptable risk.

“This prosecution should remind other employers that failing to keep their employees safe can have fatal consequences and they will be held accountable for this failure.”