Siemens Public Ltd. Co. and RWE Innogy UK Ltd. have each been fined as a result of the 2009 death of a wind turbine technician at RWE’s Causeymire wind farm in the U.K., says the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety.
According to the HSE, 27-year-old Colin Sinclair was killed when he came into contact with an unguarded rotating shaft of a gearbox within a Siemens turbine at the 48 MW, 21-turbine facility, which came into operations in 2004 and is located 30 km southwest of Scotland’s John o’ Groats village.
On Dec. 10, Tain Sheriff Court heard that Sinclair was one of two Siemens representatives, along with two engineers from RWE, carrying out an end-of-warranty inspection at the wind farm. Sinclair was appointed senior technician for this inspection.
The HSE explains that on Sept. 16, 2009, Sinclair and the other Siemens employee escorted the RWE staff up turbine 18 to the area where the rotor blades are mounted. Then, 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 Sinclair’s harness became entangled in the high-speed shaft coupling – causing him to be pulled in toward the shaft, says the HSE. The emergency stop cord was pulled, and emergency services were called, but Sinclair was pronounced dead at the scene.
An HSE investigation found that the gearbox had been inadequately guarded since January 2009 – thus, exposing the rotating shafts.
Siemens Public Ltd. Co. pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974 and was fined 107,000 British pounds. RWE Innogy UK Ltd. pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974 and was fined 45,000 British pounds.
“This death was easily preventable and involved a risk which is well known and appreciated throughout all industries,” Niall Miller, an HSE inspector, stated after the hearing. “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.”