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Siemens and RWE fined after death of technician in UK wind turbine accident

18 December 2015

Siemens plc and RWE Innogy UK Ltd (RWE) were fined after 27-year-old Colin Sinclair was killed when he came into contact with the unguarded rotating shaft of a gearbox within a turbine at Causeymire windfarm in Caithness. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the gearbox had been inadequately guarded since January 2009, exposing the rotating shafts.

Stock image
Stock image

On December 10, 2015, Tain Sheriff Court heard how Colin Sinclair was one of two representatives of Siemens along with two engineers from RWE carrying out an end of warranty inspection at the windfarm. Mr Sinclair was appointed the senior technician for this inspection.

On 16 September 2009, Colin 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, a Siemens Technician began the process to pitch the rotor blades into the off position before locking them off to enable the RWE Engineers to carry out the inspections. It was during this process that Colin 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. Colin Sinclair was pronounced dead at the scene.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the gearbox had been inadequately guarded since January 2009, exposing the rotating shafts.

Siemens Public Limited Company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974, and was fined £107,000.

RWE Innogy UK Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974, 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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