Port admits guilt over worker's plunge

A PORT has admitted breaking health and safety regulations following an accident in which a worker plunged eight metres between containers.David Gammell suffered serious head injuries after slipping through a gap between two containers at Ipswich docks on November 8 last year.

A PORT has admitted breaking health and safety regulations following an accident in which a worker plunged eight metres between containers.

David Gammell suffered serious head injuries after slipping through a gap between two containers at Ipswich docks on November 8 last year.

Associated British Ports, which owns the docks, pleaded guilty at Ipswich Magistrates' Court yesterday to failing to provide Mr Gammell, a contract worker employed by an agency, with adequate training.

It will be sentenced at a later date after magistrates decided the case was too complex for their sentencing powers and adjourned the case to crown court – but was warned the penalty could be an unlimited fine.

The court heard Mr Gammell had been asked by a dock foreman to join his team to load and unload containers on a ship as they were a man short.

Eddie Scoggins, prosecuting on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive, said the weather had been cold and wet with a strong wind. The court was told part way through helping to unload containers on a vessel Mr Gammell, who had been with the port four weeks, left the area for a tea break and returned a short while later via a gangway on the ship.

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Mr Scoggins said one of Mr Gammell's feet had slipped when he had tried to cross a gap between containers. He added Mr Gammell had fallen just over eight metres and sustained serious head injuries, from which he had not yet fully recovered. Mr Scoggins said new employees at the port received a general induction, although that did not include a specific introduction to container handling.

When Mr Gammell started work on the ship, he was given a "toolbox" talk that morning, but Mr Scoggins told magistrates: "Mr Gammell should have been provided with all the necessary training." Mark Tyler, for ABP, said his clients had a detailed induction programme and had extended it to an entire week. He added Mr Gammell had received a specific toolbox talk from his supervisor covering means of accessing and getting on and off. "In this particular case example, for reasons we do not understand, we do not know why that specific instruction was not met," Mr Tyler said.

"This is not a case where the company has made no attempt to assess the risk. It was assessed. A view was taken that a gap that you can step across is something that's encountered and considered an acceptable gap, up until this case."

Mr Tyler said some eyewitnesses claimed Mr Gammell had tried to jump the gap between one container to another. "It would be wrong for the court to conclude that the port caused this accident," he added. A spokesman for ABP said after the case: "ABP has co-operated fully with the Health and Safety Executive 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."

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