Broker defends ‘common sense’ health and safety practice after woman falls 20ft from yacht

Endeavour, with the access ladder attached by Mr Christie. Picture: Michael Baxter / Health and Safety Executive
Endeavour, with the access ladder attached by Mr Christie. Picture: Michael Baxter / Health and Safety Executive

A YACHT broker has defended his knowledge of health and safety after a woman fell from as high as 20ft off a boat he was trying to sell. 

A trial against Ancasta International Boat Sales continued at Portsmouth Crown Court yesterday over injuries suffered by 60-year-old Marion Frankish at Port Solent in 2015.

The special needs teaching assistant from Hindhead fell between 15-20ft after losing her balance climbing down a ladder secured to Endeavour, a Moody 44 yacht, stored ashore on a cradle on November 28 that year.

But Ancasta employee Michael Christie, who welcomed Mrs Frankish aboard alongside her husband Ian, said on Tuesday he ‘did deem’ the vessel’s access plan safe at the time of the accident.

A day earlier jurors heard Mr Christie secured a ladder to Endeavour so it protruded just above the boat’s sugar scoop – despite Ancasta health and safety guidance dating back as far as September 2007 recommending a protrusion of one metre above a stepping point. 

Mr Christie said his decision to set the ladder up this way was ‘common sense’, as a result of undertaking a so-called ‘dynamic risk assessment’ of Endeavour’s specific constraints. 

The court heard this typically comprises an assessment of a customer’s footwear and their ability and experience of accessing vessels and using ladders. 

Questioned by James Leonard, defending, Mr Christie said: ‘Sometimes we [employees] have to use our common sense.

‘In the case with the boat at Port Solent, in my opinion, I was using my common sense.’ 

When the trial began on Monday Mr Christie said the safest way to alight Endeavour would be to step on to its access ladder from the right-hand side of the stern, where there are ‘textured moulds for grip and stability’.

But Mrs Frankish – whose fall led to a broken back and collar bone, a bleed on the brain, a punctured lung and rib and skull fractures – said she was given no such guidance. 

Mr Christie yesterday said he was ‘certain’ Mr and Mrs Frankish ‘would have seen [him] go on [to] Endeavour] first’ in this way, while Mr Leonard added accessing the boat from the left side of the stern – which is curved – ‘would not make sense at all’. 

The court heard Mr Christie, who still works for Ancasta at its headquarters in Port Hamble, ‘started working in the industry’ in 2002 and had previously undertaken training – inclusive of health and safety – during a spell at Gosport-based Clipper Ventures.

While she was not at court yesterday, Mrs Frankish said on Monday the accident in 2015 had changed her life, caused her to lose sleep and made her ‘anxious about everything’. 

Her husband said the ‘very distressing’ incident left him in ‘total shock’ and he subsequently saw blood ‘pouring’ from his wife’s head. 

Mrs Frankish spent four weeks at Southampton General Hospital because of the fall. 

Ancasta denies failing to carry out its business while ensuring people not in its employment were not exposed to health and safety risks.

(Proceeding)