Mowi had not instituted thorough safety management system for marine operations

A fish farm’s operator – international salmon conglomerate Mowi – had not instituted a thorough safety management system for its marine operations, an investigation by the UK Marine Accident Investigation branch (MAIB) has found in its recently released report on the death of a fish farm manager who was crushed during a transfer underway.

On February 18th 2020 the assistant manager of the Ardintoul fish farm in Northwest Scotland drowned after sustaining a crushing injury and falling into the water. Clive Hendry was on site at the fish farm to oversee a chemical anti-lice treatment for one of the salmon pens.

In mid-afternoon, after the treatment was completed, he asked the skipper of the Beinn Na Caillich to take him over to the farm’s feed barge, a cylindrical moored platform used for storing and distributing feed for the pens. A few of the farm’s technicians had taken Hendry’s lunch aboard the barge earlier in the day, and he wanted to retrieve it.

As the Beinn Na Caillich approached the barge, Hendry went to the starboard side and stood by an open bulwark gate. The skipper engaged astern propulsion to slow the vessel as it approached the barge, intending to align the forward bulwark gate with the barge access ladder and come to a halt before giving Hendry the all-clear to step to the barge’s ladder.

At 15:10, with the Beinn Na Caillich still moving slowly ahead, the assistant manager stepped through the open gate and onto the barge access ladder. A supernumerary on the bridge of the Beinn Na Caillich saw Hendry step out and shouted out in surprise. At that moment, the Beinn Na Caillich’s bulwark gate post caught the assistant manager and crushed him against the barge ladder’s fender.

Despite his severe injuries, Hendry managed to hang on to the ladder. A fish farm technician reached him and attempted to keep him from falling into the water by holding onto the back of his lifejacket and raincoat. However, the lifejacket crotch straps were not fastened, and Hendry slipped out and fell about 10ft into the water. He floated to the surface face down and was not responsive.

The crew of the Beinn Na Caillich managed to bring him alongside and called for help. Several of the fish farm’s workboats responded and helped to retrieve Hendry from the water. Despite determined efforts and the early use of a defibrillator, he could not be revived, and he was pronounced dead at the hospital.

A post-mortem exam determined that Hendry’s death was caused by drowning after a crush injury to his pelvis. He had no known medical conditions, and drug and alcohol tests came back negative.

MAIB noted in its report that the workboat skipper had not conducted a safety discussion prior to the casualty, as recommended by UK regulations.

MAIB said that Mowi “had a large feet of workboats and routinely used them to transfer staff to and from its offshore fish farm installations. However, it had not conducted risk assessments or provided safe systems of work, nor written procedures for personnel transfers by boat”.

MAIB recommended that Mowi should set up a thorough SMS and engage “appropriate marine expertise” to advise its senior management team on safe operations.