Christchurch yacht company fined after tall ship fire which almost killed worker (From Bournemouth Echo)
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Rolf Kitching suffered burns to upper torso and head after blaze at Hythe Marina
8:21am Monday 7th October 2013 in News
A YACHT company from Christchurch has been fined for safety breaches after a fire ravaged a famous tall ship and almost killed a worker.
Rolf Kitching, 45, suffered burns to his upper torso and head and was hospitalised for four months after the blaze at Hythe Marina five years ago.
He was found unconscious after the fire ripped through the Malcolm Miller tall ship as it was undergoing a major refurbishment.
The schooner was previously used as a training vessel after being built in the 1960s with part-funding from former Mayor of London Sir James Miller.
Southampton Crown Court heard how the refurbishment project was overseen by Christchurch-based Yacht Project Associates Ltd (YPAL) and company director Allan Foot as principal contractors.
Welder Mr Kitching was employed by a separate company and was working in a saloon area on steelwork that had been sprayed with insulation foam when the fire broke out.
He is unable to recall what happened next but was found unconscious after fellow workers risked their lives entering the blazing vessel to rescue him.
His burns were so extensive that he was not expected to survive. He is still too ill to work.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that hot work on board the ship was poorly controlled and managed by YPAL and Allan Foot.
Issues included inexperienced workers not being given sufficient information, and a lack of instruction or training on the risks of hot work.
There was no fire watch in place at the time of the incident and emergency arrangements were poor. A small fire that had occurred earlier the same morning was not investigated or properly dealt with.
Yacht Project Associates Ltd was fined a total of £25,000 and ordered to pay £65,000 in costs after pleading guilty to two separate breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
The same two charges against Allan Foot, of the same address, were left to lie on file.
Judge Peter Ralls said the fine was a “serious punishment” given the |size of the firm and that payments would be made over the next three years.
After the hearing HSE Inspector Angela Sirianni said: “We will never know the exact circumstances of what happened on board the Malcolm Miller, but the end result is that Mr Kitching has suffered acutely painful trauma and years of ill health as a result of an incident that was preventable.
“The fact that nobody was killed in the fire, or that other workers weren’t seriously injured as well, is purely a matter of luck.”
Mr Kitching, from Portsmouth, is launching civil proceedings.
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