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  • Writer's pictureRobert Spicer

The Little Book of Health and Safety Horrors Part 10: Fisheries


Death of diver

Graeme Mackie placed an advert online offering his services as a trainee shellfish diver. John MacNeil engaged him to collect shellfish from his boat in the River Forth Estuary. Mackie drowned in his first dive. He was not wearing any Buoyancy Control Device.MacNeil failed to have any standby diver on hand in case of emergencies and he was not able to give immediate assistance.

The HSE Principal Inspector (Diving) made the following comments:

  • The dive resulted in tragic consequences which could have been avoided if MacNeil had planned the activity properly and employed the correct size dive team made up of competent divers.

  • Diving is a high hazard activity, bit if it is conducted properly, in accordance with the regulations and guidance, the risks can be managed.

  • The minimum team size normally required when diving for shellfish is three qualified divers – a supervisor, a working diver and a standby diver. Additional people may be required to operate the boat and to assist in an emergency.

Deaths of cockle pickers

In August 2006 a gangmaster in charge of Chinese migrant cockle pickers was sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment on 21 counts of manslaughter. The facts, in summary, were that 23 Chinese migrant workers died after a group of 35 cockle pickers were cut off by the tide after dark in February 2004. Twenty-one bodies were later recovered.

The gangmaster – Lin Liang Ren – was also convicted of perverting the course of justice and facilitating illegal immigrants to work in the United Kingdom. His girlfriend, Zhao Xiao Qing, was sentenced to two years and nine months imprisonment for perverting the course of justice and facilitating. His cousin, Lin Mu Yong, received a sentence of four years and nine months imprisonment for helping cocklers to break immigration laws.

Crushing death

In October 2013 Tomas Suchy, an employee of Interfish Ltd, was clearing a fallen stack of frozen fish boxes at the company’s site in Plymouth. He was killed when a stack of frozen fish boxes fell onto him. There was no safe system of work or instruction to works as to how the stacks should be stored. There was no written procedure for dealing with falls of stock.

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