South Yorkshire Times February 21, 1959
Hit By Skip
Tragic and Unforeseen Mishap at Cadeby
The District Coroner (Mr. W. H. Carlile) read to a Conisbrough inquest jury, on Monday, a regulation concerning safety fencing in mines, part of which said that every flywheel and every other dangerous part of machinery used should be securely fenced. He added that in the case of death they were inquiring into there appeared to have been a breach of this regulation.
Struck On Face
The jury returned a verdict of ‘Accidental Death” on William Frederick French (34), colliery fitter, of 16 Thornhill Street, Denaby, who was struck on the left side of his face by a descending skip on February 12th and fatally injured. Charles Hammer, of “The Poplars”, Harlington, Doncaster, N.C.B. group Mechanical engineer, said on the morning of February 12th, he was informed that there was some trouble with the skip door opening gear at Cadeby Colliery. He, French and other fitters went to look at the gear and determined that the trouble was in an air cylinder which operated one of the skip doors.
Mr. Hammer said that there were two skips and it had been decided to Wind coal on one side only and the two other skip was allowed to travel free, the air cylinders were at the side of the shaft and parallel with it. There was an inspection platform at the top of the cylinders, and the cylinders stood up about 12 inches above the platform, which was fully surrounded by a safety fence.
Witness said that the head of the defective cylinder was removed it was then found that a nut had come off the piston rod. When the loose plates were found in the bottom of the cylinder they decided to get them out using poles with hooks on the end. French and another fitter, called Wright, started, to fish for the plates.
One plate had been retrieved, Mr Hammer went on, and it was handed out and put down on the platform. Then French and Wright tried to get the second one. They were using two hooks and French withdrew the rod, with which he had been assisting Wright to get the plate on his hook, over his shoulder. When witness took it from him and turned to take it away it was then that the accident occurred.
He turned and saw that French had been injured. Mr. Hammer said that he and Wright picked French up and put him on the platform.
Hammer continue d that there were slippers on the end of the skip nearest to the platform and the clearance between the platform and skip itself was about 11 inches, and between the end of the slipper and the platform was two inches, so that any slight movement in that direction *would be dangerous.
The fence, he said, terminated two feet move the level of the platform. There was a space one wide between the two cylinder tops. Mr. Hammer said it was presumed that French had put his head beyond the level of the platform and that was how the accident had happened.
Since the accident had occurred the platform had been fenced.
Replying to Mr. Carlile, witness said that if the platform would have more enclosed it would have made it more difficult to examine the cylinders.
Thought it Safe,
Witness agreed that if there was a breakdown of the equipment the fence could be removed and the skips stopped. It was considered however, that it was safe to do this work while the skips were working
The only way the accident could have occurred was by French tilting his head beyond the level of the platform.
Asked by M. J. Prendergast, on the behalf of the National union of Mineworkers, if there was any reason why coal winding should not have been suspended ‘while the work was being carried out Mr. Hammer said: “I couldn’t give you a definite answer”.
On behalf of the N.C.B., Mr. C. L. Blenkinsop asked if the fence had come down to within one foot of the platform, which was right on top of the cylinder head, could they have taken the head off
Mr. Hammer said “that they could not unless they removed a Piece of the fencing.”
Asked by Mr. Blenkinsop if there was any reason to suppose that French would push, his head over, the edge of the platforms
Hammer said he had looked down the cylinder himself and he had been able to do so by crouching on the platform with his head over the side.
The Coroner: “You have to comply with the regulations regardless of convenience and when you have only two inches to spare it doesn’t need much of a human element to get into danger.”
If they had had to remove the fence, Mr. Carlile said, the obvious thing to do was to stop the skip while the work was being done.
In reply to Mr. Blenkinsop, Tom Milner Wright, of 42, Old Road, Conisbrough, a colliery fitter, said that he did not consider it unsafe to do that work on the morning of the accident.
Dr. H. Lederer, pathologist, said cause of death was compression of the skull.
The Coroner said it was perfectly clear from the evidence that steps had been taken to see that there was not a similar accident.
In this case there was a definite regulation for the fencing of the platform and apparently it had been fenced apart from a small. Part, which he supposed had been left to make it easier to do work on the cylinders.