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5th January 2022

Failures In Cold Weather Planning Cause Fatality

In January 2018 a 74-year-old security guard tragically died after becoming isolated from colleagues following a generator failure at the gatehouse where he was stationed. His employers were fined £100,800 and the construction company they were contracted by £768,000 for breaches of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974.

Incident

The accident happened on a remote hillside in Scotland.

Corporate Service Management Ltd (CSL) had been contracted by Northstone (NI) Ltd (NL) to provide manned site security at a wind farm which they were constructing.

CSL employee Ronnie Alexander and a colleague were stationed at the site with Ronnie manning the gatehouse and his colleague in the site compound.

On 21 st January 2018 the Met Office issued a yellow weather warning for heavy snow which then played out with deep drifts covering the hillside and access roads.

In the midst of the snowstorm, the generator which provided power to the gatehouse had failed and the security guard’s vehicle became trapped in deep snow.

The mobile phone signal in the area was poor and Ronnie and his colleague were only able to communicate via radio.

At around 17:00, the colleague in the compound was able to gain a mobile signal and so-called head office to report the issues.

Despite this, the emergency services were not contacted until 21:00 and, in the early hours of 22nd January, Ronnie Alexander was found by the mountain rescue team lying in the snow around 1 mile from the gatehouse – presumably after attempting to walk to safety.

He was airlifted to a hospital but later died as a result of hypothermia.

Risk Assessment

CSL had considered the weather risk and had stationed two guards on the site as opposed to one as a direct result of this. There were issues with both their and NL’s emergency plans however as they knew that the mobile signal was poor but hadn’t made suitable provisions for an effective means of calling for help. NL had also not provided any backup generators to ensure employee welfare if the main generator failed. This should have been considered as the main generator had a history of breakdowns.

Prevention

This incident could have been prevented with better consideration of realistic scenarios in the risk assessments of both CSL and NI. Had the situation been fully considered then there would have been measures in place to allow the security guards to:

  1. Change their working plans when severe weather was forecast
  2. Contact the relevant personnel for help
  3. Evacuate safely and in good time
  4. Have backup power for the ongoing provision of welfare

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