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Mon April 12 2021

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Siemens fined £100k after rep killed during wind turbine inspection

15 Dec 15 A court has heard how the death of a man pulled into a wind turbine gearbox could easily have been prevented.

27-year-old Colin Sinclair was killed when he came into contact with the unguarded rotating shaft of a gearbox at the top of a turbine at Causeymire windfarm.

He was one of two representatives of Siemens plc along with two engineers from RWE Innogy UK Ltd carrying out an end of warranty inspection at the windfarm. Mr Sinclair was appointed the senior technician for this inspection.

On 16th 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, 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 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.

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

At Tain Sheriff Court last week Siemens plc was fined £107,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974.

RWE Innogy UK Ltd 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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