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2020 / 2021 Edition

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Concrete plant inquest returns verdict of accidental death

THE Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has said lessons can be learned following the death of a man who was suffocated by limestone dust at Hanson Aggregates’ Whatley Quarry, near Frome, in Somerset.

Health and safety inspector Anne Linden was speaking last week after an inquest jury returned a verdict of accidental death on quarry maintenance equipment worker Neal Webber.

According to local news website this is, Mr Webber was asphyxiated when a ledge of impacted limestone dust on which he was standing gave way as he cleaned the caked sides of a limestone hopper at the site’s Premix ready-mixed concrete plant.

Mr Webber disappeared into the dust, and despite the efforts of his work colleague, Neil Myers, and other workers at the plant, he could not be saved.

The four-day inquest heard that a Permit to Work drawn up by the operations manager at the plant had instructed Mr Webber and Mr Myers to wear full safety harnesses and fixed lanyards, and that only one man at a time was to work in the hopper.

However, at the time of the incident both men were in the hopper and Mr Webber had not attached his lanyard to the safety rail. Mr Myers also fell when the ledge gave way but was able to free himself.

Following the inquest, the HSE advised Hanson Aggregates to tighten up their procedures for cleaning the hopper. Mrs Linden said that in such situations a work platform would be helpful and a harness and lanyard should be used as a last resort to prevent someone falling into the material.

Ed Gretton, head of legal for Hanson Aggregates, said: ‘The health and safety of our employees and the local community is the highest priority for Hanson, and our employees at Whatley Quarry were deeply saddened by this tragic accident.

‘We had a procedure at the time, and still have, that requires a fixed-line safety rope and one man in the hopper and one man out. Tragically, both Neal and Mr Myers went inside and Neal hadn’t attached the line, which would have saved him.’

The family of the deceased man were said to be content with the inquest verdict.

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