Mowi, Scotland's biggest salmon farming company, has been fined £800,000 after an employee was crushed and drowned when he fell into the water during a boat transfer.

Mowi pled guilty to health and safety breaches at Inverness Sheriff Court

The fine comes after a three-year fight for justice by Catriona Lockhart, long-term partner of Clive Hendry, the 58-year-old fish farm assistant manager who drowned when he fell into the water from a feed barge access ladder after he was crushed between two vessels.

Responding to the decision, she said, "There are no winners here today, only losers. Myself, Clive's friends and family are left devastated over Clive's horrific death. Three years on I still can't believe the largest salmon producers in the world had so many health and safety failures. Clive should have been kept safe at work."

The fatal accident happened during a transfer via a "touch and go" method that would see the boat stop with one of its gates lined up with the barge's ladder so that he could step through the gate onto it.  Hendry stepped from the deck onto the ladder while the boat was still moving forward and was crushed between the two vessels.

A fish farm technician on board the barge then tried to stop Hendry, already severely injured, from falling into the water by holding onto the back of his personal flotation device and oilskin jacket, but he slipped out of the flotation jacket and drowned in the waters of the loch.

The Herald: Clive Hendry,  who died whilst working on a Mowi Scotland fish farm

Speaking after the sentencing, Debbie Carroll, who leads on health and safety investigations for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, said:   “Clive Hendry was much loved by his partner and a well-liked and respected man by friends and colleagues. Our thoughts are with them at this difficult time. 

"Mowi Scotland Limited accepted liability and the Crown accepted their guilty plea to the contraventions of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. 

"Since this incident, the company has introduced new risk assessments and has put into practice safe systems of work.  

“Had these been in place at the time then Mr Hendry’s transfer from the Beinn na Cailleach to the Sea Cap would have taken place without incident and he would be alive today. 

“Hopefully this incident should prompt other employers to consider their duties and that failing to keep their employees safe can have fatal consequences for which they will be held accountable.” 

Norwegian-owned Mowi is the biggest producer of salmon in Scotland and also the largest salmon producer in the world.

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Last year, a damning report into the incident by the Marine Accidents Investigation Board, found that no effective safety management system had been in place. It pointed out that “the crew on board Beinn Na Caillich were not fully prepared to deal with the emergency situation” and “they had not conducted regular man-overboard recovery drills and were not familiar with the vessel’s recovery equipment.”

It also recommended that Mowi apply workboat code standards across its fleet and ensure “appropriate marine expertise to oversee its marine operations”.

Amongst the safety issues it highlighted was that company policy permitted employees not to fasten the crotch straps on their lifejackets – a policy which is contrary to best practiced and published guidance from the MCA and International Maritime Organisation.

It also blamed this culture on the rapid expansion of salmon farming, saying, "The sector’s safety management approach has struggled to keep pace with its organisational culture to deliver commercially, as illustrated by this accident. The disparity between aquaculture practices and traditional marine industries can be regarded as a strong contributory factor in this case.”

Ms Lockhart vowed to continue her fight for justice. She said: "My next fight is to get a Fatal Accident Inquiry into all the circumstances as to why my Clive never came home alive, so that Mowi Scotland, and the aquaculture industry more widely, learn from those shocking health and safety failures, so that no other families have to go through this living hell, and that Mowi Scotland's workforce are kept safe and all come back home alive."