Yacht builder fined £600,000 over accident which left worker seriously injured

Mark Gillen suffered life-changing injuries in the boat yard accident (The Health and Safety Executive/PA)
Mark Gillen suffered life-changing injuries in the boat yard accident (The Health and Safety Executive/PA)

A premium yacht builder has been fined more than £600,000 after a worker suffered life-changing injuries at its shipyard, the Health and Safety Executive said.

Mark Gillen, 54, sustained injuries including 12 broken ribs and a severed right arm when a staging platform weighing around one tonne toppled over and fell on top of him at Princess Yachts in Plymouth, Devon.

The father and husband, who had worked for the company for 26 years, also suffered bleeds on the brain and remained in hospital for months.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the platform fell due to one of the front wheels hitting a divot in a concrete surface.

Mr Gillen had been part of a team working on a 72-foot vessel at the company’s South Yard site when the incident happened on November 9 2021.

The HSE said Princess Yacht Limited of Newport Street Plymouth admitted breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £600,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9,146 at Plymouth Magistrates’ Court on Thursday.

Speaking after the case, Mr Gillen’s wife, Sarah, said: “Our worlds were turned upside down the day Mark had the catastrophic crush accident, leaving him with life-changing injuries.

“He simply went to work that morning, and while he was eventually able to come home, our lives will never be the same.

“We are incredibly lucky to still have him with us but there is no denying that the road to recovery has been, and continues to be, extremely difficult and challenging.”

Mrs Gillen said the family were grateful to the HSE team which had prosecuted Princess Yachts.

She added: “However, the sad reality is that no fine, no matter how significant, will ever truly reflect the pain and ongoing suffering that Mark and our family has been through.”

Mrs Gillen described how her husband had enjoyed weight training, the boxing gym, cycling and playing golf with friends before the incident but now suffers constant chronic nerve pain.

She said the family hoped lessons would be learnt from the case.

Andy Siddall, enforcement lawyer at HSE, told the court how finished mouldings were being moved from the firm’s South Yard site to their premises on Newport Street for fit-out.

Mr Gillen and two colleagues began to push a staging platform but one of the front wheels hit a divot in the concrete surface, causing it to topple and fall on him. He was airlifted to hospital due to the severity of his injuries.

The HSE investigation found a failure to assess the risks associated with moving stage platforms manually through the external yard.

If this had been done, it would have identified the uneven ground as a hazard that required controlling, it said.

The platforms could have been moved externally by forklift trucks rather than manually, the HSE added.

Paul Mannell, inspector for HSE, said: “Mark Gillen is lucky to be alive.

“The company should have had measures in place to ensure that mobile staging was never pushed through the yard by hand.

“As the measures taken post-accident clearly show, it would have been reasonably practicable to have had them in place when Mr Gillen was injured.

“They were implemented immediately after the accident at no cost to the company.

“The failure to have in place a safe system of work resulted in a life-changing injury to a loyal employee who had worked for the company for 26 years.”

Princess Yachts has been contacted for comment.