Hurt lighthouse woman sues bosses for £21k

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A LIGHTHOUSE worker is suing her bosses for £21,500 after she injured her back as a boat “banged down” in waves.

Finance assistant Rosemary Cairns, 55, of Mountcastle Park, went to carry out an inventory check on lighthouse equipment on the Isle of May in the Firth of Forth.

However, Mrs Cairns told the Court of Session in Edinburgh she was off work for 15 months following the accident in October 2009.

She is now suing her employers the Northern Lighthouse Board and the boat owners Calypso Marine.

Mrs Cairns began as a receptionist with the board before becoming a finance assistant, where part of her duties included dealing with its fixed assets.

She told the court she had never had any education or training on boarding a vessel and was not instructed to move with the movement of the boat or to brace herself against the motion of the waves.

But in October 2009 she was told by a manager that he thought it would be good if she took part in a trip to the isle and she would be given a list of assets, such as batteries, to check off.

She said: “I did say to him I wasn’t very keen to go, but he did say he wanted me to go.”

Her husband Thomas, an area maintenance engineer with the board, was also going on the boat out to the Isle of May.

The couple travelled to Pittenweem, in Fife, to meet up with crew from the rib boat that was due to ferry them out to the island.

She said her husband had provided her with a boat suit and when she got on to the boat she was given a life jacket.

Upon leaving the harbour she noticed the boat was “a bit more sort of bumpy”.

She said: “The waves were getting bigger and the boat was going up and down a bit more. I could see the lighthouse from the distance. It wasn’t far off. I felt the waves had started to get higher. It was a bit more choppy I felt.”

Mrs Cairns said the boat went up on the waves twice and “banged down”.

She said the first time she felt pain to her back and the second occasion she let out a scream.

The boat was stopped and she told her husband: “I can’t move my back.”

She was taken back to shore where an ambulance transferred her to Dundee’s Ninewells Hospital. In the action it is said she suffered a closed fracture to one of her vertebrae.

Mrs Cairns told her counsel Simon Di Rollo QC that she did not receive any notice or sight of a risk assessment in relation to the trip.

However the board, based at George Street, maintains that it had in place a risk assessment over accessing lighthouses by boat.

Calypso Marine, of North Queensferry, in Fife, states that passengers were given a safety briefing and the boat was driven at a safe speed for the conditions at the time.