Sunderland dock worker’s death was avoidable, finds inquest

Jason Burden
Jason Burden
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THE accident that killed Wearside worker Jason Burden could have been avoided, an inquest heard yesterday.

The 19-year-old trainee mechanical engineer failed to secure a one-tonne piece of machinery to a workbench before he started working on it, allowing it to fall off and crush him.

Jason, of Simonside, South Shields, was in the final year of an apprenticeship at Tyne Slipway and Engineering in Sunderland when the tragedy happened.

He was crushed while working on a ship tunnel thruster at the company’s main workshop at South Docks on December 8, 2011.

He was airlifted to the Royal Victory Infirmary in Newcastle before being pronounced dead.

The inquest, opened yesterday at Sunderland Civic Centre, heard that he suffered internal bleeding, broken bones and other injuries.

A jury heard that Jason was qualified to change the steel gasket in the thruster, having attended a training course in Norway with its manufacturer, Brunvoll.

The hearing was also told that he had previously been instructed to use wooden chocks to stabilise the equipment – a gearbox and propeller system used to manoeuvre ships – on a workbench.

The apprentice was left in charge of the work, jurors heard.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector Stewart Eddie carried out an investigation of the workshop after Jason’s death and concluded that using chocks to secure the equipment would have prevented the fatal accident.

Company director Christopher Wilson said he asked Jason to get wooden chocks when the machinery was first brought into the workshop, a few days before the tragedy.

The firm’s service engineer, Anthony McCormack, later told the hearing: “I told him to get some wedges, and he came back with a piece of wood.

“Christopher told him to go and get a wooden wedge.” Mr Wilson said he believed Jason was able to do what he described as a small job.

He said: “He was qualified to do that job. Brunvoll were quite happy for him to do it. He was fully capable.”

Mr Wilson and Mr McCormack, both of whom were also qualified to work on the equipment, were out of the country on business at the time of the tragedy.

Both said they believed the “enthusiastic” apprentice was capable of carrying out the job in question.

Mr Eddie was cross-examined about the use of wooden chocks by solicitor Dominic Adamson, representing Wear Dock and Engineering Company.

He said: “Is it correct to say that chocks would have been more than adequate to avoid this event?”

Mr Eddie answered: “Yes, they would.”

In January, 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 inquest is expected to conclude today.