A court has heard how Colin Sinclair – a 27-year-old wind turbine technician – was killed while carrying out duties for Siemens at Causeymire windfarm, 30km south-west of John O’Groats.
Mr Sinclair and another Siemens worker were joined by two engineers from RWE Innogy UK Limited (RWE) to conduct an end-of-warranty inspection at the energy site.
However, Mr Sinclair, who had been designated as the senior technician, led the other workers to one wind turbine that was to be inspected, to the area where the rotor blades are mounted.
An RWE engineer began to switch the blades to their ‘off’ position before locking them to ensure the Siemens technicians could then carry out their work safely.
However, Mr Sinclair’s harness got caught in the high-speed shaft coupling, meaning that he was pulled into it and was killed as a result of the fact that there was no guarding in place to protect against such an incident.
An investigation carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that insufficient safety guarding had been used on the gearbox since January 2009, which represented a significant safety risk for engineers and technicians.
Siemens was fined £107,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974, while RWE was fined £45,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974.
Niall Miller from HSE said: “This death was easily preventable and involved a risk which is well known and appreciated throughout all industries.
“It is disappointing that this risk wasn’t addressed despite the lack of guarding being known to those involved. This incident should serve as a reminder to employers of all sizes that failing to take simple precautions can have catastrophic consequences.”