Port admits guilt after worker's 8m fall

IPSWICH Port is set for a massive fine after an accident nearly claimed the life of a temporary employee.A representative of parent company Associated British Ports admitted failing to provide proper training for David Gammell, who nearly tumbled to his death last November.

IPSWICH Port is set for a massive fine after an accident nearly claimed the life of a temporary employee.

A representative of parent company Associated British Ports admitted failing to provide proper training for David Gammell, who nearly tumbled to his death last November. He also admitted failing to ensure a safe working environment.

Mr Gammell suffered severe head injuries – from which he has not yet fully recovered – after falling down an eight metre-deep well between container stacks on a berthed ship.

After hearing ABP's guilty plea, magistrates in Ipswich sent the case to crown court after deciding their maximum penalty of a £20,000 fine was not a severe enough punishment.

Eddie Scoggins, prosecuting on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive, said Mr Gammell had joined a team of workers already half-way through their shift of container work.

He told South East Suffolk Magistrates Court Mr Gammell did not receive the company's Tool Box Talk training brief before starting the work.

Most Read

And he said poor working practices were very much in force with stevedores regularly stepping over the 2ft 6in gap between container stacks.

Mr Scoggins said November 8 last year was plagued by poor weather – the men were working in cold, rainy and windy conditions.

He said Mr Gammell remembered approaching the edge of a container, although he could not remember why.

He then remembered slipping and desperately clutching at the treacherously slippery container surface before falling into the well.

Mr Scoggins said Mr Gammell was adamant he was not planning to jump from one container to another as he would have had no reason to do so.

Mark Tyler, mitigating, said several eye witnesses reported seeing Mr Gammell trying to jump from one full container stack to another which was not yet fully stacked – leaving a substantial drop.

But Mr Tyler said it was not his intention to criticise Mr Gammell and said it was impossible to reach any firm conclusions about what actually happened.

He said ABP had always taken safety seriously and the lapse in their procedures was not due to negligence, but rather to previously agreed practices which were eventually proved unsafe.

Mr Tyler said ABP had worked very closely with the HSE throughout the investigation and had implemented a change in training and working procedure as a result.

And he pointed to past safety records which indicated ABP was better than the industry standards for work accidents.

But magistrates rejected his application to deal with the case, deciding it was so serious it must be deal with by a higher court.

A spokesman for ABP said after the case: "ABP has co-operated fully with the HSE in its investigation into the circumstances of the accident and has pleaded guilty. Until this case has been heard by the Crown Court, we cannot provide further comment.

"We have offered our sympathy to Mr Gammell and his family and wish him well in his recovery."

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter