Two global companies, Fluor and Siemens, have been ordered to pay a combined total of more than £1m ($1.5m) after a worker was killed and another seriously injured when a turbine blade lift operation went badly wrong.
The tragedy, which prosecutors said could easily have been avoided, happened when engineers were loading the blades onto a sea barge for delivery to the Greater Gabbard wind farm off the coast of Suffolk, UK, in May 2010.
During the operation a 2-tonne part of the blade transport arrangement fell off, crushing one worker to death and seriously injuring another.
Both workers were employed by Siemens Windpower A/S (SWP) but were working for Fluor Ltd, the principal contractor.
Prosecuting the case, the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said the firms’ management systems were to blame for the accident, which could have been avoided "had the right questions been asked".
This incident could easily have been avoided had suitable systems and procedures been in place– Julie Rayner, HSE Inspector
The injured man, Frank Kroeger, was airlifted to hospital where he was resuscitated twice and survived life-changing injuries. He underwent a long period of rehabilitation and treatment near his home in Germany.
The family of the fatally-injured man asked that his name not be released.
The HSE’s investigation found serious safety failings in the two firms’ management systems for the loading operation, which allowed vital parts of equipment to go unchecked before being lifted.
Following a four-week trial in July this year Fluor Ltd was found guilty of breaching safety laws and last week (2 October) was ordered to pay £275,000 in fines and £271,048 costs.
Siemens Windpower A/S (SWP) pleaded guilty at an earlier stage and was ordered to pay £375,000 in fines with costs of £105,355.
"This incident could easily have been avoided had suitable systems and procedures been in place to ensure that all loads were properly connected whilst being lifted," said HSE Inspector Julie Rayner after the hearing.
"Had the right questions been asked when the lift was being planned and had the bolt and two brackets holding the blade and frame together been checked before they were lifted, the death and serious injury of two workers could have been prevented.
"This case clearly highlights the need to ensure that relevant information is considered when lift plans are produced to ensure that all of the relevant risks are considered."
Photograph: The UK’s Greater Gabbard wind farm (SSE)