Man Crushed By Hopper – Conisbro’ Mishap Reveals Flaw in Control Button

January 1958

South Yorkshire Times, January 18, 1958

Man Crushed By Hopper
Conisbro’ Mishap Reveals Flaw in Control Button

At a Conisbrough inquest on Wednesday it was described how a loaded hopper on a cement mixing machine at Cadeby Colliery fails to stop on a downward movement even when the “stop” control button is pressed, although the machine was described by two engineers to be in “quite good working order.” The engineers told the Doncaster district Coroner, Mr. W. H. Carlile and a jury, of a test that had been made after an accident on Saturday in which Donald Fredrick Gibbons Farrow (46), of 59, Rufford Road, Doncaster, sustained; fatal injuries when he was crushed by the hopper. The Coroner heard the evidence of 11 witnesses and, the jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death.”

A son, Donald William Farrow, said his father was employed by J. L. Kier and Co. Ltd., as a driver on a concrete mixing machine.

Joseph Squires of 39, Hattersley Road, Swinton, a labourer also employed by Kier’s and working on the same site on the cement mixer. Farrow was there, he said, and it was his job (Farrow’s) to operate the hopper by use of a switch box. Witness said he was with Farrow up to the time of the accident at about 8.45 a.m.

Coroner: Did you see what happened?

Witness: No sir, he was standing near the switch box when I last   saw him.

Witness described how a three feet deep hole was dug under hopper so that the open top part of the hopper was at ground I when lowered.

Coroner: Did you see him get into the pit?

Witness: No sir. I could see no reason for him to go into the pit.

 “Missed Him All Of A Sudden”

Coroner: Had he any reason at any time to go into the pit?

Witness: Only at the start of the day to clean out the pit.

Coroner: Have you ever seen him in the pit?

Witness: Only first thing in a morning.

Coroner: Was there a shout of any kind?

Witness: No sir. I missed him all of a sudden, and saw the hopper moving down when next I looked.

Coroner: Were you near him at this time?

Witness: No sir, I was at the other side of the machine. I went for the foreman and we got the bucket (hopper) off him. He had been trapped in a sitting position facing the switches.

Samuel Anderson, of 22, Market Street, Mexborough, a labourer, also working on the cement mixer, said he saw Farrow standing near the switch control box when he last saw him before the accident. He said the hopper had been slightly raised to put cement into it.

Coroner: have you ever known the hopper to come down without it being operated?

Witness: No, never.

William John James Brabham, of 16, Oak Grove, Conisbrough, said his job was to shovel gravel into the hopper. He said he saw Farrow in the pit with the hopper on top of him, but could offer no explanation as to how he had got into the pit.

The foreman in charge of the construction site at Cadeby colliery, John Evans, of 6 Queen Street, Thurnscoe, said he was on his way round to see the men when the accident happened. He said he knew it was a habit for the men to slightly raise the hopper to put in the cement after they had put it in the gravel.

Coroner: could it be done with the hopper at the bottom?

“The Mystery Of It”

Witness: Yes

Coroner: The mystery of it is why was in the pit with the hopper coming down.

Witness: I don’t know how it can come down without being operated. It was regularly overcalled.

Coroner: Can you offer any opinion on the matter

Witness: No. I asked if anyone had been near the controlled and they said no one had.

Witness said Farrow could have been going across to help a workman, as he had the knife in his hand which was used to cut open bags of cement. He was the kind of man who would help someone if they were busy. He was a good workman.

“I can only suggest he slipped and maybe grabbed the switch when falling,” said witness.

Josef Zied, of 68, Packman Road, West Melton told the coroner that he was concreting nearby I could see Farrow bending down inside the pit

“I could see the hopper moving down, then I saw Farrow straighten up and tried to scramble out of the pit, but he was too late. I shouted to my pals as soon as I saw the hopper moving, but they were too far away to do anything.”

Ernest Reid, a steel erector, of 9 Selkirk Rd, Intake, Doncaster, said he was in a cabin on the site when he saw Farrow in the pit, but witness did not see him get in.

“I saw the hopper coming down on him and his hands were reaching out to the side as he tried to scramble up. The offer was coming down much faster than it should have done.”

Coroner: Much faster?

“Could foresee the Accident”

Witness: Yes sir. I could foresee the accident and I rushed out of the cabin but couldn’t get there in time.

Frank Umpleby, head mechanical engineer at Cadeby Colliery, said he examined the machine after the accident. “Mechanically it was in quite good order and it worked full or empty quite well.”

When the hopper was full, however, witness said, and on a down ward journey, if the stop button were pressed the hopper would continue running down, pulling through the gears under the weight.

Coroner: It’s not much good having a stop button if it doesn’t stop the hopper.

Witness said the stopping action worked quite well when the hopper was not loaded.

“In Quite Good Order”

The Colliery electrical engineer, Leonard Robinson, of 7, Worthing Crescent, Conisbrough, said he had examined the machine and had found it was in quite good order. He explained, however, that the stop button did not stop the loaded hopper on its downward journey.

He said the switch only switched off the electricity which stopped the motor.

Coroner: The stop switch is not much good if it doesn’t stop the hopper. This may have been the cause of this accident happening.

Michael D. Innis, pathologist, said Farrow’s scull had been fractured and that the cause of death was shock resulting from cerebral lacerations following the fracture of the scull.

The Coroner said: “Why the deceased was in the pit no-one can ever know. Whether he slipped, fell, or went down, we don’t know. He made an effort to get out, but was too late. It is a good thing we have recognised the flaw that once the hopper is full and started on a downward journey, if the stop button is pressed the hopper fails to stop. This seems to be a weakness and may be responsible for the death but there seemed no necessity for him to go into the pit. It is merely a matter for conjecture why he was in the pit. At any rate, there doesn’t seem to be any one else concerned in this, as no one else was near. I take it that steps will be taken to see that the defects in the machine will be rectified.”

The jury also asked for a more efficient braking system to be installed on the machine.