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Family of killed Sunderland dock worker hope lessons can be learned

JASON BURDEN ...was killed when a piece of metal machinery weighing almost a tonne fell on him.

JASON BURDEN ...was killed when a piece of metal machinery weighing almost a tonne fell on him.

THE family of a worker killed in an accident at a Wearside docks have said they hope lessons can be learned from the tragedy.

A two-day inquest into the death of 19-year-old Jason Burden ended yesterday with the coroner ruling a verdict of accidental death.

Jason was in the final year of an apprenticeship at Tyne Slipway and Engineering company, at South Docks, Sunderland, when a piece of shipping machinery fell and crushed him on December 8, 2011.

He was airlifted to the Royal Victoria Infirmary hospital in Newcastle, where he was pronounced dead. Assistant coroner Andrew Hetherington was told his death was caused by chest and abdominal injuries.

Jason had been attempting to repair a one-tonne tunnel thruster – a gearbox and propeller system used to manoeuvre ships – when it fell from a workbench and crushed him.

The hearing was told Jason had been on a training course with the equipment’s manufacturer – Brunvoll – and was “more than capable” of doing the job.

Company director Christopher Wilson, who was on business in Texas at the time of the accident, told the inquest: “He was qualified to do that job. A small job like a seal change – Brunvoll were more than happy for him to do that job, and they said they would guarantee his work.

“He was very talented.”

The coroner was told the job which Jason was doing was a first for the company. It had never repaired that specific model of tunnel thruster on a bench in the warehouse before, and there were no specific safety rules in place.

A jury was also told that the accident, which happened “in the click of a finger,” could have been avoided if Jason had secured the piece of machinery to the work bench.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector, Stewart Eddie, said the thruster would have overturned “very quickly” if unbalanced.

“It was very quick,” he said. “I would say he didn’t have any chance to get out of the way.”

He also said the use of wooden chucks to support the thruster on the bench would have prevented the accident.

Jason had not been trained to use such wedges by Brunvoll, but had been told to do so by Mr Wilson and service engineer Anthony McCormack when the thruster first arrived at South Dock, when they supervised him dismantling it.

Earlier this year Tyne Slipway and Engineering was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay costs of £47,936 at Newcastle Crown Court after pleading guilty to failing to discharge a duty under health and safety laws. The company has now implemented specific safety rules and measures for the job Jason was doing.

After the hearing Jason’s dad Trevor, of South Shields, said: “We are heartbroken that we have lost our beautiful son in an accident that could and should have been prevented.

“We acknowledge and accept the conclusion of accidental death from this trial, but hopefully lessons have been learned and no family has to suffer the unbearable pain we feel. We are pleased that Tyne Slipway and Engineering company have taken steps to ensure this never happens again.”

Conclusion: Accidental death.

 

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