Calls have been made for urgent strengthening of workplace health and safety laws after Clydeport Operations Limited, owned by Peel Ports Limited, pleaded guilty to a number of breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 the High Court in Edinburgh. They admitted a series of systematic failings in risk assessments and safe systems of work between 29 December 2000 and 19 December 2007.
The case was heard as a result of an incident in 2007, which killed three men on the River Clyde. The tugboat, on which the men were working on, The Flying Phantom, capsized in thick fog while it was towing a cargo vessel. A forth man also on board managed to escape, and was later rescued as he clung to a buoy.
However, it should be noted that the health and safety issues admitted to were not the cause of the tragedy. A Clydeport spokesperson confirmed this by stating: "In pleading guilty to these three charges, it is important to underline that the Crown accepts these issues were not the cause of the tragic events of December 2007.
But he continued, "What these tragic events did do, was bring these breaches to light. Since this accident we have undertaken a comprehensive restructure of our working practices and systems and welcome the Crown's comments that the introduction of Work Instruction 19/15 ensures a more robust safety regime for this engaged in towage on the Clyde".
Despite Clydeport's statement, for some, more must to be done to stop incidents like this from reoccurring. Pat Rafferty, the Unite union's Scottish secretary said there is an "urgent need for Scottish Government intervention to strengthen workplace health and safety legislation.
"By admitting their culpability the he law will punish Clydeport with a significant fine but this does nothing for the families of the victims, puts no responsibility on an individual or individuals within the company itself and does nothing to prevent fatalities from recurring in the future.
"Scotland desperately needs a prescriptive legislative agenda that serves to protect working people and their families because from Stockline, the Flying Phantom and offshore helicopter tragedies we are repeatedly seeing the failings of a toothless, protracted justice system", Mr. Rafferty said.
Clydeport received a £650,000 fine over their failings. However, last year the tug operator, Danish company Svitzer Marine Limited, also admitted a series of health and safety breaches and was consequently fined £1.7 million.
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