HEMSWORTH miner Ian Cameron’s death was a tragedy that was “possibly avoidable”, a coroner has said.
A six-day inquest in Selby heard how a series of safety failings at Kellingley Colliery in the run-up to the accident may have contributed to the death of the married father-of-two.
Mr Cameron, 46, of Holly Street, had been carrying out maintenance work on a coalface on Sunday, October 18, 2009, when a 20-tonne hydraulic roof prop spontaneously lowered, trapping him between its canopy and mounds of rubble on the floor below.
After Mr Cameron was freed by colleagues he was airlifted to hospital but died from crush injuries.
The hearing was told that a Health and Safety Executive investigation had revealed that the cause of the lowering was erosion in a solenoid controlling the prop which had led to hydraulic fluid bypassing the switch and operating the machinery without it being controlled.
Paul Brady, from the HSE, told the hearing that as well as serious problems involving the roof props, there was also, at the time, a lack of “common sense” with safety operations being communicated to the workforce.
The inquest was also told of similar incidents involving the props, manufactured by the Wigan firm Joy Mining and Machinery, around the world, and that a warning notice, drawn up by the company for distribution in April 2008, had not reached those responsible for safety at Kellingley.
Witnesses also told the hearing that the props in use at the face at Kellingley had been moved from another at the mine, having been initially installed second hand after the closure of another pit in 1997.
They also told how the face being worked by Mr Cameron was plagued by geological problems and the props themselves were known to cause problems, so much so that extra men had to be employed in maintaining them.
Clive Hibbert, a director at Joy, told the hearing that the props came with safety warnings stating that parts such as the solenoids should be changed if changes in the sound or speed of operation were noted.
Following the incident, UK Coal implemented different working practices at the pit, including the reduction in the amount of debris allowed to build up below the props.
The jury, on the guidance of Coroner Rob Turnbull, recorded a verdict of accidental death on Tuesday.
He told the jury that the death was the result of a “tragedy which was possibly avoidable”, but that it was no part of the inquest’s remit to apportion blame.
Mr Turnbull described the events leading to Mr Cameron’s death as “dreadful.”