Careful Man’s Death Fall at Denaby Powder Works

November 1945

South Yorkshire Times November 24, 1945

Careful Man’s Death Fall.
Inquest on Swinton Joiner.

A Swinton joiner, Thomas Farr (58), of 13, Romwood Avenue, who fell 11 feet and sustained fatal head injuries at Denaby last Wednesday, was stated at a Mexborough inquest on Friday to have been always very careful, and in the habit of advising carefulness to others, even when working only 3 feet from the ground. The Doncaster District Coroner (Mr. W. H. Carlile) recorded a verdict of ‘Accidental death.’

Farr was employed by Mr. Oscar Weaver, builder and contractor, of Mexborough, and at the time was fixing corrugated sheets to the roof of a hut at Denaby Powder Works. He fell 11-ft. On to a concrete floor as he was crawling along a seven-inch batten to reach a ladder at lunch-time, and shortly after being admitted to Mexborough Montagu Hospital he died from laceration of the brain due to fracture of the base of the skull.

The man’s widow, Olive Farr, 13, Romwood Avenue, Swinton, gave evidence of a previous fall in May this year, in consequence of which he was admitted to the Montagu Hospital suffering from head injuries. On that occasion he was detained for two weeks and had an operation, but he returned to work in August and seemed to have fully recovered. He has not complained about his head since, but had been very well, expect for a little stiffness of an arm.

He was accustomed to working at heights and had never suffered from dizziness. Last Wednesday he left for work at about 7-20 a.m. and at 1 o’clock she was summoned to Mexborough Montagu Hospital, arriving to find that her husband had died. Another joiner, Raymond Eyre, 8, Cromwell Road, Mexborough, who was working with Farr, said the scaffolding consisted of 9in. X 3in. battens and 7in. X 2½in. battens fixed girder to girder at right angles to the wall. They were working on the scaffolding all the morning, he on the inside and Farr on the outside. When the apprentice said it was 12 o’clock and time to go along the batten to get to the ladder. He had gone about 6-ft. when he saw Farr falling from the scaffolding. Farr had been crawling along the 7 x 2½ batten, which was from the wall to the girder, to get to the one where witness was. Eyre jumped to the ground and went to his assistance. Farr was lying face downwards and on turning him over he saw he was bleeding from the ears and nose. He got a stretcher from one of the works vans and Farr was attended by one of the works nurses and then taken to Mexborough Montagu Hospital.

Battens Hard To Get

Questioned by the Coroner, Eyere said in normal times there would have been a wider scaffolding but the shortage of timber made it difficult to get battens. Farr, he said, had never complained. He had always been very careful and had always told them to be careful, even if they were working only 3 feet from the ground.

On the scaffolding underneath was John Steventon, builder’s labourer, of 67, Barnburgh Street, Denaby, who said he went to see the time and told Farr, who was in charge, that it was 12 o’clock, upon which he replied, ‘All right, I’ll come down when I’ve fixed this one.’ Steventon was just getting down from the scaffolding when he heard a mumble and Farr caught him a glancing blow at the back of the neck and fell to the ground practically flat. He also went to his assistance and went him in the ambulance to hospital. On the way, Farr complained of pains in the head.

Answering the Corner, witness said the battens were all that were available at the time, the others being used by the bricklayer.

The scaffolding was quite adequate for that type of work, said Mr. J. H. Blincow, representing the Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers. It was usual to use that particular type of batten for the work they were doing.

Cause of death, said Dr. E. L. S. Robertson (casualty officer, Mexborough Montagu Hospital) was laceration of the brain due to fracture of the base of the skull. Farr died about 45 minutes after being admitted to hospital. He had a history of being in hospital in May this year when it was stated he had fallen 15ft. So far as he could ascertain there was no fracture of the skull, but he had cerebral haemorrhage which caused some pressure on one of the optic nerves, resulting in gradual onset of blindness. An operation was performed to remove the pressure and his eyesight recovered. He made a good recovery on that occasion, said Dr. Robertson.

Asked by Mr. Blincow if there was any connection between the two falls, Dr. Robertson said as he was not at the hospital when Farr was in the first time, he could only answer theoretically. The only possible thing was that the last operation might have weakened his bones and caused severer injuries than he might have had normally.

Recording his verdict, the Coroner said everyone seemed satisfied that the scaffolding was reasonable having regard to existing circumstances, but personally, he thought a batten 7 x 2 hardly suitable for a person of 58 working 11ft. from the ground. Farr’s former injury might also have weakened his confidence. But he was the foreman in charge and he was satisfied.

Expressing sympathy with Farr’s relatives on behalf of the employer Mr. J. P. Crehan (Rotherham) who represented them said Farr was not only a workman, but a personal friend of Mr. Weaver. Sympathy was also expressed for the workers and Trade Union by Mr. Blincow.