RISK ASSESSMENT - 25.08.2017

Complete failure to protect vulnerable worker

A golf ball boss has been jailed for the manslaughter of a worker who drowned whilst collecting golf balls from the bottom of a lake. What lessons can be learned from this case?


Dale Pike (DP) had employed his friend, Gareth Pugh (GP), to work as a golf ball collector. His role involved diving into lakes on golf courses to recover lost balls. GP, who had learning difficulties, had been employed for this role despite the fact that he held no qualifications in diving and was unable to fully understand the associated risks.

To make matters even worse, the equipment that he’d been supplied with by DP certainly wasn’t suitable or sufficient to ensure that he could complete the job safely.

The incident

Whilst diving in a lake at Peterstone Lakes Golf Club in February 2016, GP drowned. He was pulled from the water some 70 minutes after DP had noticed that something was wrong. The emergency services found that GP had been prevented from climbing out of the water as he was wearing a belt to weigh him down. It was also identified that GP had been using the equipment that was supplying him with air for the first time.

Note. Rather than using equipment that’s designed for diving, GP was breathing through a length of hose that was attached to a surface compressor.

Vague emergency procedures

DP was acting as a banksman whilst his friend went into the water. However, at the time of the incident, he was unable to fulfil this role as his arm was in plaster.

Penny pinching

The investigation found that DP had made enquiries with professional diving companies to complete the work. However, he was unwilling to pay for the five staff they stated were required to do the job safely. The cost of hiring a diving company was £1,250 per day. DP paid his friend £40 per day.


DP pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was jailed for 32 months. In sentencing, the judge stated “You ignored both the risks and advice because it would eat into your profits.”

Although this case is certainly the most blatant example of putting money before safety, it does highlight how the courts will treat those who fail to put the safety of others above profits. In short, if there’s an incident because you’ve tried to save money, any penalties handed out are likely to be severe.

Tip 1. Unlike in this case, do not ignore professional advice and industry standard practice. DP had checked to see what he should do and had spoken to experts but completely ignored both.

Tip 2. Do not ask staff to carry out tasks that they are not capable or competent to complete safely. This is especially important if there are high risks - as there were in this case.

Tip 3. Emergency procedures must be effective. For example, you have agreed systems in place to complete a rescue if required. This includes having sufficient numbers of trained staff and appropriate rescue equipment available.

The fatal incident occurred because the boss put profit above safety. He completely ignored professional advice and industry standards. Unlike in this case, staff must be capable and competent to complete the tasks asked of them. If necessary, you must have effective emergency procedures in place.

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