Firm fined after man nearly died in blaze on tall ship

The aftermath of the fire on the tall ship Malcolm Miller, which left Rolf Kitching seriously injured
The aftermath of the fire on the tall ship Malcolm Miller, which left Rolf Kitching seriously injured
Copnor Takeaway in Copnor Road after the incident

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A COMPANY has been fined £90,000 after a fire on a ship left a man with severe burns.

Rolf Kitching, 45, from Gosport, was in hospital for four months after he almost died in the fire that left him with 40 per cent burns to his upper torso and head.

Now Yacht Project Associates Ltd has been sentenced for safety failings on board the Malcolm Miller tall ship, which was undergoing major refurbishment at the time.

Mr Kitching, a welder, was working for a different company on board the ship at the time at Hythe Marina on June 10, 2008.

But Winchester Crown Court heard yesterday that the refurbishment project was overseen by the Christchurch-based firm and company director Allan Foot as principal contractors.

Mr Kitching was working in the saloon area on steelwork that had been sprayed with insulation foam when the fire started.

He was found unconscious when workers risked their lives to rescue him. No-one knows what happened before the blaze.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found hot work on the ship was poorly controlled and managed by YPAL and Allan Foot.

After the hearing HSE inspector Angela Sirianni said: ‘We will never know the exact circumstances.

‘But the end result is that Mr Kitching has suffered acutely painful trauma and years of ill health as a result of an incident that was preventable.

‘The fact that nobody was killed in the fire, or that other workers weren’t seriously injured as well, is purely a matter of luck.

‘The system of work was clearly unsafe, and should have been better managed.’

Inexperienced workers were not being given enough information, and there was a lack of instruction or training on the risks of hot work.

And there was no fire watch at the time of the fire.

A small fire earlier the same morning was not investigated or properly dealt with.

The firm was fined £25,000 and has to pay £65,000 in costs after pleading guilty to two separate breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act. The same two charges against Allan Foot were left to lay on file.