Owners of ship fined £220k following death caused by R22 refrigerant

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The owners of a fishing boat in the UK have been fined £220,000 after a crew member died from asphyxiation by R22 refrigerant. William Ironside, 52, died while cleaning a refrigerated salt water tank on the trawler Sunbeam in Fraserburgh harbour in August 2018. Four other crew members who tried to help him were also hospitalized. The boat’s owners, Sunbeam Limited, were fined £220,000, while the ship’s captain, James Duthie, was fined £7,500 and given 100 hours of unpaid work. An investigation found that the tank was an enclosed space without proper safety precautions, and the atmosphere was not monitored.

According to the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report, the R22 refrigerant leaked into the tank through corroded tubes in the vessel’s refrigeration plant. Ironside was working alone without communication, and there was no ventilation or monitoring of the atmosphere in the tank. Three crew members went into the tank to help him, but all suffered breathing difficulties and one collapsed. Two other crew members wearing breathing apparatus were able to rescue their struggling colleagues, but Ironside could not be resuscitated.

This incident highlights the importance of following safety protocols when working with refrigeration systems. Proper ventilation, monitoring of the atmosphere, and communication are crucial to prevent accidents and protect the lives of workers. The fines imposed on the boat’s owners and captain serve as a reminder that negligence in ensuring safety can have severe consequences. It is essential for companies and individuals to prioritize safety measures to avoid tragic incidents like this in the future.

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