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Sheriff’s fatal accident inquiry determination into death of Wester Ross fish farm worker Clive Hendry released


By Hector MacKenzie

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Clive Hendry died as a result of tragic workplace accident.
Clive Hendry died as a result of tragic workplace accident.

A FATAL accident inquiry following the tragic death of a Wester Ross fish farm worker has concluded that “precautions that could reasonably have been taken” might have avoided the accident which claimed his life.

Clive Hendry (58) drowned after being crushed between two boats as he tried to move from a moving work boat to a salmon feed barge at Mowi Scotland's Ardintoul fish farm on Loch Alsh.

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Sea Cap: image taken after the incident. Picture: Crown Office
Sea Cap: image taken after the incident. Picture: Crown Office

Mr Hendry died on February 18, 2020 while transferring from a workboat to a floating pontoon at the Ardintoul fish farm on Loch Alsh, a sea inlet in the north west Highlands.

The inquiry was a mandatory inquiry since the death of Mr Hendry occurred while in the course of his employment.

Beinn na Cailleach was the vessel involved in the fatal incident. Picture: Crown Office
Beinn na Cailleach was the vessel involved in the fatal incident. Picture: Crown Office

It follows the prosecution and conviction of Fife-based Mowi Scotland in May 2023 for breaches of health and safety legislation.

The company was fined £860,000 after it admitted health and safety failings which could have prevented his death.

MOWI expressed extreme regret over Mr Hendry’s death.

It earlier pleaded guilty to failing to make risk assessments for the safe transfer of employees from its larger vessels to a structure known as the 'Sea Cap' which housed a galley, toilets and other accommodation with computers controlling some fish farm functions.

At the International Workers' Day Memorial 2022 a wreath was laid for the late Clive Hendry.Picture Gary Anthony.
At the International Workers' Day Memorial 2022 a wreath was laid for the late Clive Hendry.Picture Gary Anthony.

It also admitted failing to monitor safe systems of work to ensure safe transfers and failing to provide supervision to ensure flotation devices were properly secure so they would become detached, as happened in Mr Hendry's case.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) today noted the conclusion of the FAI into his death.

Mr Hendry had worked for MOWI for 12 years and in the aquaculture 10 industry for over 20 years.

He was an experienced mariner who, at the time of his death, held a day skipper/watch leader certificate and a commercially endorsed powerboat level 2 certificate, both issued by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

These entitled him to operate boats such as the Beinn na Caillich during daylight hours. Mr Hendry was in good health and lived with his partner of twenty-eight years, Catriona Lockhart.

Unlike a criminal trial, an FAI seeks to establish the facts surrounding the death and is not a hearing which apportions blame.

The purpose of an inquiry is to establish the circumstances of the death and to consider what steps, if any, may be taken to prevent other deaths in similar circumstances.

The procurator fiscal led comprehensive evidence from witnesses and a range of sources on the facts and circumstances of Mr Hendry's death.

Sheriff Gary Aitken’s determination states that “there are precautions which could reasonably have been taken that might realistically have resulted in the death, or accident resulting in the death, being avoided.

“These are firstly that there should have been a specific risk assessment for the transfer of personnel from large workboats such as the Beinn na Caillich to floating structures such as the Sea Cap.

“Secondly, and following from such a risk assessment, there should have been a safe system of work for such transfers.

“As a minimum, such a system of work should have required that the vessel be stationary during transfer and mandate that personnel should only embark or disembark from the vessel when signalled by the master of the vessel that they are satisfied that it is safe to do so.”

The determination continues: “There were defects in any system of working which contributed to the death or the accident resulting in death.

“There was no clear system for the transfer of personnel from large workboats such as the Beinn na Caillich to floating structures such as the Sea Cap.

“Ad hoc, informal arrangements were in place. There was no clarity as to how such transfers were to be carried out.

“Employees did not properly understand their respective expectations in relation to such transfers resulting in a confused and dangerous transfer attempt by Mr Hendry, resulting in a fatal accident.”

Sheriff Gary Aitken: “He was clearly very well thought of and respected by his colleagues and I have no doubt that he is still sorely missed by all who knew him.”Picture: Callum Mackay.
Sheriff Gary Aitken: “He was clearly very well thought of and respected by his colleagues and I have no doubt that he is still sorely missed by all who knew him.”Picture: Callum Mackay.

His 80-page determination outlines the facts of the incident and spotlights a number of precautions that would be beneficial going forward.

Mr Aitken concluded: “In closing this Determination, may I once again express my condolences to the family and friends of Mr Hendry.

“He was clearly very well thought of and respected by his colleagues and I have no doubt that he is still sorely missed by all who knew him.”


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