Even the most careful employees can suffer industrial accidents for which even the most safety-conscious employers can be held responsible. The High Court made that point in the case of a technician whose left arm was traumatically amputated whilst he worked on the inner machinery of an offshore wind turbine.
The technician, whose reputation for carefulness had earned him the nickname ‘Mr Safety’, was working within the housing of the turbine, which was on board ship and being prepared for installation. Unaware that the turbine’s generator was under power and slowly moving, he put his arm through a hole in a brake disc to check a component. On completing the check, he realised that he could not withdraw his arm and he could only watch as the machinery severed his limb.
In finding the company that employed him at the time two-thirds liable for the accident, the Court found that technicians who had been working on the turbine earlier in the day had reactivated the power without replacing a chain and warning sign that would have alerted incoming personnel to the fact that the system was energised. That failure was the most potent cause of the accident.
The technician, who was working in the turbine’s housing alone when he should not have been, was himself one-third responsible for his own misfortune. There was no one present to act as a second pair of eyes and, although the accident involved a certain amount of sheer bad luck, he had assumed without checking that the power was off and the system locked.
The Court expressed admiration for the courage and presence of mind he had shown following the accident and for his determination in coping with such a grave injury. The company was commended for its exemplary reaction in the immediate aftermath of the accident. Evidently attaching great importance to safety matters, it carried out a full investigation and swiftly implemented effective reforms to equipment and safety procedures.
The amount of the technician’s compensation, which would be reduced by one third to reflect his own contributory negligence, would be assessed at a further hearing, if not agreed.