A ship repair and conversion company has been ordered to pay £98,500 in fines and costs after a worker was crushed to death when an anchor weighing almost three tonnes toppled onto him in a dry dock at Teesport.

Kevin Watson, 51, of Redcar, was one of three men working for A & P Tees Ltd on a sand dredger in the dry dock when the incident happened on 11 February 2009.

The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which today (11 October) prosecuted the Hebburn-based firm for serious safety failings.

Teesside Crown Court heard how Mr Watson and his colleagues were ranging anchors on the dredger to lay out chains ready for inspection. Despite several attempts, they were unable to get the starboard anchor to lie flat on the bottom of the dock, so left it in an upright position for almost half an hour while they worked on the chains. They then returned to the anchor, but as Mr Watson attempted to pass a chain sling under it in order to manoeuvre it into a flat position, the anchor fell towards the vessel and landed on top of him. He died as a result of multiple crush injuries.

The HSE investigation found that while Mr Watson was trained to operate a dockside portal crane, he had no formal qualifications in lifting and slinging of loads. It was also unclear how many times he had undertaken the ranging of anchors and chains before the fatal incident.

His two colleagues both had training certificates relating to carrying out lifting and slinging operations, but only one of them had carried out the task of ranging the anchors and chains before, and then only on one occasion. HSE also established that the company did not have an effective management system in place to inform supervisors and others of employees’ competence. In addition, A & P Tees Ltd had not carried out or recorded an assessment of the risks associated with the ranging of anchors and chains, and there was no safe system of work in place for this task.

The court was told that following the incident an Improvement Notice was served for the implementation of a safe system of work for the ranging of anchors and chains, as well as a system for assessing the competence of those required to carry out the task.

A & P Tees Ltd, c/o A & P Tyne Ltd, of Wagonway Road, Hebburn, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay £23,500 in costs.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Victoria Wise said: “Kevin Watson lost his life needlessly because of the failure by A & P Tees Ltd to put simple safety measures in place. This was a tragedy that could have very easily been prevented if the company had assessed the risks and ensured a safe system of work was in place in relation to the task of ranging the anchors and chains.

Lifting operations can be dangerous and every year a significant number of people are injured or killed as a result. It is therefore vitally important to ensure that appropriate procedures are in place so that lifting operations are adequately planned and carried out in a safe manner.”