Dockyard and Scaffolding Company Fined Nearly £900k After Scaffolder’s Fall


A devastating incident aboard HMS Bulwark has led to substantial fines for Devonport Royal Dockyard and Kaefer Limited due to health and safety failures.

Devonport Royal Dockyard and Kaefer Limited have been fined a total of £896,660 for breaches of health and safety laws following an accident where a scaffolder suffered severe injuries after falling through an unprotected hole on the Royal Navy ship HMS Bulwark.

The incident occurred on April 11, 2023, at the Devonport Royal Dockyard in Plymouth, a site where Royal Navy ships undergo maintenance and repairs. A scaffolder, employed by Kaefer Limited, fell 15 feet through an open hole while dismantling scaffolding inside a ballast tank on HMS Bulwark, resulting in multiple fractures and a two-month hospital stay.

According to the ONR, the scaffolder climbed down the ladder on the scaffolding, but as he stepped back he fell 15 ft through the exposed hole onto the lower tank floor and broke several bones.

This accident was not the first of its kind at the dockyard, with a similar incident reported in January 2021. Despite this, an investigation found that necessary safety measures to prevent such falls were not adequately implemented. 

In response to the charges brought under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, both companies appeared before Plymouth Magistrates Court. Devonport Royal Dockyard Limited, part of Babcock International, and Kaefer Limited admitted to failing to ensure the safety and health of their employees and others working on the site.

Devonport Royal Dockyard was fined £750,000 and Kaefer Limited £146,660, with additional prosecution costs of £5,589.90.

After the hearing, Dan Hasted, ONR’s Director of Regulation – Operating Facilities Division, said: “We welcome today’s outcome which recognises that Devonport Royal Dockyard Limited and Kaefer Limited failed in their duty to protect workers.

“This incident was entirely avoidable and was the result of a series of significant failings on the part of both organisations involved in this work.

“Nobody should go to work and not come home in a fit and healthy state.”