Worker dragged by harness into wind turbine gearbox

Grant Prior 5 years ago
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Siemens Public Limited Company and RWE Innogy UK Limited have been fined a total of £152,000 after a maintenance worker was killed when he was dragged into the unguarded rotating shaft of a wind turbine gearbox at a Scottish windfarm.

Tain Sheriff Court heard how Colin Sinclair, 27, was one of two representatives of Siemens along with two engineers from RWE carrying out an end of warranty inspection at the Causeymire windfarm.

Sinclair was appointed the senior technician for this inspection.

On 16 September 2009, Sinclair and another Siemens employee escorted the RWE staff up to turbine 18, to the area at the top of the wind turbine where the rotor blades are mounted.

Once at the top of the tower, an RWE engineer began the process to pitch the rotor blades into the off position before locking them off to enable the Siemens technicians to carry out an inspection.

It was during this process that Sinclair’s harness became entangled in the high-speed shaft coupling, causing him to be pulled in towards the shaft.

The emergency stop cord was pulled and the emergency services called. Sinclair was pronounced dead at the scene.

A HSE investigation found that the gearbox had been inadequately guarded since January 2009, exposing the rotating shafts.

Siemens Public Limited Company pleaded guilty to safety breaches and was fined £107,000.

RWE Innogy UK Limited also pleaded guilty and was fined £45,000.

HSE inspector Niall Miller said after the hearing: “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.”

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