A QUARRY worker died in a tragic accident after the key to a heavy crusher was left active, an inquest heard.
Father-of-two Gary Ward, 43, of Crook, County Durham, died when the crusher slipped and fell on him at a quarry in west Northumberland.
If Mr Ward had removed the isolator key he would probably not have been killed, west Northumberland coroner Eric Armstrong said.
But because the crusher engine was left active, it partially slipped on gravel and trapped him at Divet Hill quarry in Great Bavington.
The accident, in February 2009, led to a Health and Safety Executive investigation which uncovered a mechanical fault.
HSE Inspector Paul Grady said electric cabling had been “encased in detritus” which exposed a voltage conductor that touched the chassis and made the right-hand track shift. Mr Ward died of traumatic asphyxiation.
Plant operator Geoff Rickelton told the inquest in Hexham that he heard Mr Ward shout “Whoa!” as the crusher toppled over.
“I put on the emergency stop but I couldn’t see Gary so I went to the rear,” he said.
“Gary was under the machine lying face-down. I tried to drag him out but his torso was pinned by the oil tank and I couldn’t. We got a JCB to vertically lift the machine up and we lifted Gary out. I turned him over and checked for a pulse but there was no pulse and he wasn’t breathing.”
The inquest heard that Mr Ward, a fitter, had completed his latest safety training only three days before the accident and had all necessary qualifications. He was working for his uncle’s Durham-based Ward Bros Plant Hire Ltd business on the quarry site.
HSE officers took the eight-year-old crusher to their lab in Buxton, Derbyshire, for examination. Mr Grady said the four-stage ignition safety measures would have prevented the accident if the key had been removed.
Mr Ward was responsible for maintaining the machinery and had been checking out a problem with bearings under the crusher.
Coroner Mr Armstrong, summing up, told the jury they had a choice between verdicts of accident or misadventure.
“Realistically, if the key had been taken out, Gary Ward would probably have been with us today,” the coroner said.
“The distinction is the difference between accident and misadventure. This is a large machine on a site being used daily and maintained by Gary Ward.
“There was no reason to think this was suddenly going to happen. There was no reason to think the machine would move by itself – but this one did.”
The jury, after more than 90 minutes’ deliberation, returned a verdict of death as a result of an accident.