A Dorset-based yacht company has been fined £90,000 for failing to comply with health and safety regulations, which led to a contractor almost dying in a fire, bournemouthecho.co.uk reports.

Portsmouth welder Rolf Kitching was contracted by Yacht Project Associates Ltd in Christchurch to work on the refurbishment of the Malcolm Miller tall ship in 2008. He was found unconscious after a fire ravaged the building with burns so severe that he was not expected to survive.

While Mr Kitching is unable to remember exactly what happened to him, the subsequent Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation discovered that ‘hot work’ on the ship had been poorly controlled by the yacht firm and its director, Allan Foot.

The HSE told Winchester Crown Court that inexperienced workers had not been provided with enough training, instruction or information regarding the risks associated with hot work.

It also found that a small fire had occurred earlier in that same day but had not been sufficiently dealt with at the time. Incident and emergency arrangements were described as ‘poor’, highlighting the requirement for proper fire risk assessments.

Five years on, Mr Kitching, who suffered burns to his head and upper torso, is still unable to work.

Delivering what he called a ‘serious punishment’, Judge Peter Ralls fined the firm £25,000 for breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and a further £65,000 in costs.

Commenting on the verdict, HSE Inspector Angela Sirianni told ybw.com: “The system of work was clearly unsafe, and should have been better managed by Yacht Project Associates and Allan Foot as principal contractors.
“All hot work poses risks, especially in a confined area where toxic and flammable substances are present. A suitable and sufficient risk assessment is a necessity, and the work must be carefully controlled at all times.”