THE state-own shipyard behind the CalMac ferries scandal has been ordered to address dangerous working conditions or face prosecution, the Herald can reveal.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has given Ferguson Marine until the end of March to correct safety issues on the ferries and elsewhere on the Port Glasgow site. 

The watchdog identified “multiple issues that could compromise the safety of workers on scaffolding” used in and around the two boats being built by the Clyde.

HSE also found a shortage of skilled personnel, inadequate fire safety procedures, and problems with work permits. 

It issued four "improvement notices" over nine breaches of health and safety regulations.

Opposition parties it was “disgraceful” that workers’ safety was compromised and demanded the problems be rectified immediately.

The improvement notices, which were issued just before Christmas, are the first since the yard was nationalised in late 2019 after going bust over the CalMac ferry order.

Ferguson Marine last night insisted safety was a priority and said it was confident it would meet the deadline to comply with the notices.

Failure to comply “is a criminal offence and can result in prosecution,” according to the HSE.

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The notices coincide with intense pressure on the yard to finish the two CalMac ferries ordered in 2015 for £97million, which are now £200m over budget and five years late.

The boats, known as hulls 801 and 802, are supposed to be finished by the end of May this year and spring 2024 respectively, but large amounts of work remain outstanding. 

Throughout the scandal, the Scottish Government has justified the order and subsequent state support on the grounds they secured much needed jobs in the area.

However it now appears some of those jobs may be unsafe because of poor practices on site.

Last week, the Scottish Government released the latest progress report on the two ferries prepared by CMAL, the state-run ferry procurement body.

Based on the state of the work in October, and presented to ministers in January, the report revealed concerns over safety at the yard.

It said there had been “another LTI this month”, meaning a “lost time injury” that forced an employee to take time off work.

“Not severe injuries but again caused by carelessness, poor work practices and lack of supervisor awareness on the project,” it said.

“There requires a significant uptick in focus from all to eradicate these poor work methods and prevent further injuries.”

The Herald:

The CMAL report also referred to an HSE inspection “because of complaints made”, that looked at work permits, scaffolding and the control of hazardous substances.

On the back of that inspection, HSE issued Ferguson Marine with four improvement notices dated 19 December 2022, although the yard said they arrived three days later.

The notices said the yard had “failed to ensure that the number of competent persons” needed to keep such a large project safe were present.

Ferguson Marine had also failed to arrange proper “preventative and protective measures with regards to work at height, namely that multiple issues have been identified that could compromise the safety of workers on scaffolding used around and within hulls 801 and 802”. 

There were also failings “with regards to the issue and management of permits to work” and “fire safety risk assessment”.

Tory transport spokesman Graham Simpson MSP said: “These are deeply concerning revelations, which just add to the enormous charge sheet against the SNP over the ferries scandal.

“It’s unacceptable for the safety of workers to be compromised in the ways highlighted by the Health and Safety Executive – especially as Nicola Sturgeon’s stock defence throughout this fiasco has been that she acted to protect the livelihoods of staff.

“The suspicion will be that corners are being cut in a bid to prevent any further delays in the completion of the two vessels. 

"But staff must never be put at risk just to spare SNP ministers further embarrassment. 

"These breaches must be rectified immediately.”   

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon denies disastrous CalMac ferries deal was 'jobs for the boys'

Labour’s Neil Bibby added: “These yard workers are working tirelessly to fix the mess the SNP has made and in return they are failed time and time again.

“It is disgraceful to see the relentless chaos surrounding this contract putting workers put in danger.

“Responsibility for this yard lies squarely with the SNP government – they must drop the secrecy and make sure worker safety is protected.”

David Tydeman, CEO of Ferguson Marine (Port Glasgow), said: “The health and safety of those working in the shipyard is our highest priority and we appointed a new Safety Manager in early November 2022 in recognition of its importance.

“Following the HSE inspection in October we immediately began work on the four areas flagged to us for improvement and our efforts were noted as positive progress during a visit on 22 December. 

“We are confident that we will be able to deliver all improvements by the 31 March deadline.”

The Scottish Government said health and safety was an operational matter for the yard.

An HSE spokesperson said: “These are the only enforcement notices issued by HSE to Ferguson Marine Engineering Limited in the last five years. 

"Enforcement notices appear on HSE’s public register of enforcement notices for a period of five years.

"Improvement Notices are served when an inspector is of the opinion that there is a breach of the law which needs to be remedied within a certain period of time. Ferguson Marine has not appealed these notices.” 

"Recipients of Improvement Notices must present a claim to an employment tribunal office within 21 days from the date of service. As these notices were issued on 19 December 2022, the timescale for an appeal has now lapsed."