Trapped by a Motor – An Unlucky Oversight.

August 1921

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 27 August 1921

Trapped by a Motor

An Unlucky Oversight.

Mr. Frank Allen held an inquest at the Fullerton Hospital, Denaby Main, on Tuesday, into the death of Edwin Barber (30), a screen hand, of 5, Park View Cottages, Roman Terrace, Mexborough, who was killed whilst at work at the Denaby Colliery, on Sunday.

Mr. Scott. H.M. Inspector of Mines, Mr. W. Still, the colliery manager, Mr. R. Williamson, the chief engineer, and Mr. A. Roberts, of the Yorkshire Miners’ Association, were present.

Mrs. Lily Barber, wife of the deceased, gave evidence of identification. She last saw her husband alive at about 5-45 a.m. on Sunday. when he left home for work. She heard of the accident at 2 o’clock on Sunday afternoon.

John Mellor. a screen hand, of 8 Barnborough Street. Denaby Main, said that on Sunday, at about 1-10 p.m.. he was cleaning a 50h.p. motor hydraulic, and deceased was oiling it. The motor was not in action. In answer to the Coroner, witness said he did not look at the starting switch, for he thought it would be naturally “out,” because the motor was “stood.” Barber said to witness “I have dropped my screw-driver inside the motor.” Witness and deceased were on either side of the motor and they commenced to feel in the motor to regain the screwdriver, Barber’s head was under the driving belt. “I felt the screw-driver and told deceased so. I had no sooner got the words out of my mouth when the motor suddenly started.” Mellor said he drew his fingers away quickly and when he saw Barber was fast in the belt, he rushed to the switch. ‘I pulled at it with some force, but it never moved. The motor went round for half-a- dozen or a dozen revolutions ‘and then’ stopped as suddenly as it started.” Mellor said he ran for assistance and two electricians came and helped to get deceased away. Barber was then alive, but he was terribly injured about the head and arms.

Mr. Scott: Was the switch on when you went in.

Witness: I do not know. I did not notice the switch when I went in.

Mr. Scott: If you pulled at the switch and it refused to move then the switch must have been on when you came in.

Mr. Scott said Barber had had longer experience in the work than Mellor, and he should have noticed the switch before they commenced work.

Harry Rose, of 47, Schofield Street, Mexborough, an electrician at the Denaby Main Colliery, said that on Sunday, about 1.35 p.m., be was called into the hydraulic pump house by Mellor. He saw deceased fast in the belt of the motor. His right leg was between the belt, his left leg in the air, his head on the floor and his arms on his body. The motor was stood. With another electrician named Kent, he helped to extricate Barber, who was barely alive, and after laying him on the floor we went for a stretcher. After Barber had been taken to the hospital witness examined the switch. It was then off.

In answer to Mr. Scott, witness said that the switches were easy to work and could be released by simply pressing a button on the handle. This switch was in good working, order.

Fred Talbot, a power house attendant, of 9Bolton Street, Denaby Main, said that on Sunday afternoon he had occasion to change from one generated to another. This meant a complete suspension of the power which drove the hydraulic motor, for about ten minutes or quarter of an hour. After the change witness started up again in response to the fan house attendant’s enquiry, and gave no thought to the hydraulic engine house, which was left for hours together without anyone looking after it. If the switch was left in, the motor would naturally start again.

The Coroner said that no doubt deceased and Mellor entered the motor house in the absence of the engineer at the unfortunate moment when the change was taking place in the power house. They had commenced working and Barber had become entangled in the belt, having been caught when the power returned. He had been crushed and killed in this way. From what he gathered Mellor had been too excited at the moment to realise that he really did stop the motor when he rushed to it but it was too late to save the man’s life. He was quite sure there was no fault in the cabling. Mellor was really assistant to Barber, and it was the letter’s place to examine the switches before commencing work on the motor.

A juryman asked why the engine house was left unattended so that the men could go in as they pleased.

Mr. Still: Deceased and Mellor had no right to touch the machine until they had been told to do so by an attendant or someone in authority.

Mr. Scott advised the Colliery Co. to install mechanical switches.

In answer to another juryman, Mr Still said that the motor was often left running without any attendant for hours on end.

A verdict of “Accidental death” was returned.

Mr Still, on behalf of the Colliery company expressed sympathy with the widow and relatives, Mr Roberts did so on behalf of the workmen.