Fatal accident at Sheffield Forgemasters ‘was avoidable’

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A 75-tonne steel structure which crushed a worker to death at Sheffield Forgemasters should not have been left in the horizontal position, experts said.

The huge millhouse casting came crashing down on 26-year-old ancillary worker David Roberts in June 2010 after he had help manoeuvre the object into a sandpit in the firm’s North Machine Shop.

Crush death: Sheffield Forgemasters

Crush death: Sheffield Forgemasters

Mr Roberts died on the operating table at the Northern General Hospital after suffering injuries to his pelvis and right lower leg.

Yesterday, the inquest into Mr Roberts death was read a joint statement, agreed by industry experts Robert Marr and Michael Ellis, who confirmed that the millhousing should not have been left in the vertical position.

“This incident could have been avoided entirely if the millhouse had been laid in the horizontal position,” the statement read.

“It fell as a result of being left on its vertical orientation.”

They also agreed that factors such as the millhouse’s high centre of gravity, the unpredictably of the sand it was sitting on, and the general unevenness of the side of the millhouse it was resting on all contributed to it falling.

The jury were also shown CCTV footage from the Northern Machine Shop 12 days before Mr Roberts died.

The film showed three steelworkers, including Mr Roberts, moving the casting from the sandpit to and from the milling machine.

Jurors in the inquest at Sheffield’s Medico Legal Centre were then shown footage from the day of the incident, which partially captured the moment the millhouse toppled over.

Last week, the court heard live evidence from Mr Roberts colleagues about the horrifying moment the millhouse came down.

The jury were told how Mr Roberts, of Adlington Road, Parson Cross, Sheffield, called his loved ones on a mobile phone while he lay crushed.

They also heard from Forgemasters’ production manager Paul Birch, who told the court that the lifting plan he had agreed with the men had not been carried out the way they had discussed.

Mr Birch had previously told the inquest: “I don’t know what they were thinking on that particular evening. They changed the plan to what they thought was a similar way of doing the lift.”

Jurors are expected to return a verdict today.