Firms fined following wind farm fatality

THE death of a young man who was killed whilst carrying out a wind farm inspection was “easily preventable” according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Colin Sinclair (27) was killed when he came into contact with the unguarded rotating shaft of a gearbox within a turbine at Causeymire wind farm.

Tain Sheriff Court heard how Mr Sinclair was one of two representatives of Siemens plc along with two engineers from RWE Innogy UK Limited carrying out an end of warranty inspection in September 2009. Mr Sinclair was appointed the senior technician for this inspection.

Mr Sinclair and another Siemens employee escorted the RWE staff up to turbine 18, to the area at the top of the wind turbine where the rotor blades are mounted.

Once at the top of the tower, an RWE engineer began the process to pitch the rotor blades into the off position before locking them off to enable the Siemens technicians to carry out an inspection. It was during this process that Mr Sinclair’s harness became entangled in the high-speed shaft coupling, causing him to be pulled in towards the shaft.

The emergency stop cord was pulled and the emergency services called. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the gearbox had been inadequately guarded since January 2009, exposing the rotating shafts.

Siemens plc pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974, and was fined £107,000. RWE Innogy UK Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974, and was fined £45,000.

HSE inspector Niall Miller said, “This death was easily preventable and involved a risk which is well known and appreciated throughout all industries. It is disappointing that 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.”