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Friday, 18 April 2014

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Workmates tried to save man crushed by concrete staircase, Cumbrian inquest told

Colleagues of a man crushed to death by a concrete staircase have told an inquest how they tried to save his life.

Martin McGlasson photo
Martin McGlasson

Related: Cumbrian man was crushed by concrete staircase, inquest told

Martin McGlasson, 37, of Alexandra Close, Workington, was carrying out finishing work to the 2.9-tonne staircase at ACP Concrete Ltd when it fell on him on September 2, 2011.

Colleague Martin Law told the hearing he was working at the back of a mould about 25ft away at the Workington factory when the staircase fall.

Mr Law said: “I just heard a big bang. I looked round and saw the stair had fallen over. I knew Martin was working on the other side.”

When Mr Law and another worker, Steven Bennett, reached the scene seconds later, they saw Mr McGlasson – described by colleagues as a brilliant worker – under the concrete.

Mr Law used the factory’s overhead crane to lift it off him.

He said: “I thought he was still alive and we were trying to save his life.”

The court heard that Mr Bennett had removed the staircase from a mould that morning and set it down in front of a joiner’s bench.

He told the jury he had followed best practice for placing the stair, sweeping two wooden bearers across the floor to clear any debris before lowering it to rest on them and checking that it was stable before releasing the crane. He added: “If I wasn’t satisfied I wouldn’t have taken the chains off.”

On Tuesday, a specialist inspector from the Health and Safety Executive said he thought it was likely that a piece of plywood from the bench had been trapped under one of the bearers, although he said that would not fully explain why it fell.

The inquest had previously heard that a memo sent out in 2003 by then production manager Joseph Stewart instructed workers to keep staircases supported by the crane while they were worked. Three subsequent risk assessments said this was company practice.

Mr Stewart told the jury he would have been instructed by the health and safety department to send the memo but did not know what had prompted it.

He added that the process quickly proved impractical and, within a month, staff reverted to working on unrestrained staircases – a practice Mr Stewart said had happened for 25 years before that without incident.

Mr Stewart said he did not know about a fatal accident involving a falling staircase at another concrete firm in 2002 and felt the method used at ACP Concrete was safe.

He added that the practice would not have reverted without the health and safety department being informed.

Mr Stewart said: “We got regular inspections from the Health and Safety Executive. At no point had they said we shouldn’t be doing what we were doing.”

The inquest also heard from Shane Hilton, who suffered a near miss in the earlier accident on the day Mr McGlasson died.

The then 17-year-old was trying to load the concrete landing and step onto a forklift truck when it toppled back towards him.

The jury heard that the concrete had come to rest against a bolt sticking out of a mould.

Mr Hilton said: “If it was two inches to the right it would have fallen right onto me.”

He added that it had been a busy period and he had been doing finishing work with Mr McGlasson to get on top of the backlog.

The inquest heard that since Mr McGlasson’s death staircases are secured in racks when being worked on on their sides. Finished staircases are lifted by crane and place in a gravel pit to be picked up by a forklift truck rather than being tipped by hand, jurors were told.

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