Firm fined after security guard aged 74 freezes to death alone

A firm that traded as Farrans has been fined GBP768,000 after a 74-year-old security guard froze to death on a remote wind-farm site in Scotland. Ronald ‘Ronnie’ Alexander was found “face down and hypothermic in deep snow” on the 22  January 2018 by Police Scotland’s Mountain Rescue Team at a remote site called Afton Windfarm, near New Cumnock. He could not be revived, and died later that day.

Alexander was one of two security guards employed by the security firm Corporate Service Management Limited, who were contracted to look after the site for contractor Farrans. Two guards were appointed, as it was known to management that mobile phone signal in the area was poor. On 21 January 2018, at around lunchtime, the weather deteriorated and caused deep snow drifts on the road to the site from New Cumnock, and the road between the gatehouse where Alexander was and the site compound where his colleague was stationed.

At around 5pm, Alexander’s colleague managed to get a signal on his mobile phone and called the control room to tell them that the generator had failed and the only vehicle had been snowed in. The security firm did not call the emergency services until after 9pm. Alexander was found by the police a little after midnight.

The Health and Safety Executive, which investigated the incident, found that the construction firm, when preparing its emergency weather plan, had failed to account for the times when nobody from the company would be present at the site. No provisions were made for a back-up generator to ensure the guards had sufficient heating and lighting, despite the main generator having failed previously. The guards had no way to call for help, as the plan was dependent on the guards being able to communicate with the control room off site.

The health and safety case was heard by Ayr Sheriff Court. Northstone (NI) Limited, the parent company of Farrans, of Dunmurry, Belfast, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined GBP768,000. Corporate Service Management Limited of MacLellan Street, Glasgow, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined GBP100,800.

A spokesperson for Northstone NI said: “We deeply regret that this resulted in the death of Mr Ronald Alexander. Our thoughts and sincerest sympathies remain with his family and friends.” They added that action had been taken to prevent another such incident.

Corporate Service Management has been contacted for comment.

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