On 26th March 2018, 27-year-old Lance Corporal George Partridge was brought back to surface after he stopped responding to lifeline signals whilst he was underwater. He was sadly pronounced dead after CPR was performed. He had been on a training course at the National Diving and Activity Centre in Chepstow. Lance Corporal Partridge and his dive buddy were tasked with attaching a distance line from the base of a shot line to the underwater wreck of a helicopter at a depth of 27m. When he was recovered, his cylinders were found to be empty.
HSE served two Crown Improvement Notices relating to the failure to train all army divers how to undertake air endurance calculations and to assess the risk of a diver running out of air.
The MoD has immunity from the Crown for direct prosecution, but a Crown censure demonstrates the body’s failure to comply with health and safety law that would have been sufficient to provide a realistic prospect of securing a conviction.
While there is no Crown exemption from the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act and relevant statutory provisions, the MoD cannot be prosecuted for breaches of the law, including failure to comply with improvement and prohibition notices.
Julian Tuvey, an HSE inspector who specialises in diving, said, “This was a tragedy for all concerned however just like any other employer, the MoD has a responsibility to reduce dangers to its personnel, as far as they properly can. The scenario of a diver running out of air is a very real risk that needs to be managed.”
By accepting the Crown Censure, the MoD admitted breaching its duty under Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, in that they failed to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all its employees, including George Partridge, in relation to the risks associated with diving exercises.
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