Inquest hears of horrific fall

A WELDER has told how he saw his boss step onto an unstable platform beside a ship they were working on before plummeting to the ground beneath.David Law, 61, sustained serious head injuries in a headfirst fall, which happened on October 1, 2003, at Ipswich docks.

A WELDER has told how he saw his boss step onto an unstable platform beside a ship they were working on before plummeting to the ground beneath.

David Law, 61, sustained serious head injuries in a headfirst fall, which happened on October 1, 2003, at Ipswich docks.

Mr Law, of Abberton Manor Nursing Home, in Abberton, near Colchester, later died of those injuries and bronchial pneumonia in October 2004.

Before the horrific fall, Mr Law had been “in good shape”, according to his son Richard Law.


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At an inquest into Mr Law's death, held in Chelmsford, a jury heard how he was leading a five-strong team to refurbish and refit a large boat called The Albert.

At the time of the incident, The Albert had recently been bought by the Saffron Walden-based business Pedley Furniture International, which planned to use the refitted boat as a “floating saleroom”.

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The furniture firm had originally brought in George Prior Engineering, a ship repair business based in Great Yarmouth, to do the work.

But before the incident in 2003, George Prior Engineering laid off a number of staff at Ipswich docks. As a result, Pedley Furniture International hired Mr Law and the team, who were former Prior employees, to do the work because they knew the ship and what was required.

But during these works Mr Law, who was foreman at the site, decided a platform needed to be created to help the team carry out their repairs.

Welder Trevor Sallows told the jury how he was checking the platform with a spirit level when he felt Mr Law brush past him and onto the platform, which was supported in just two places and was attached at just one side to the small ship.

Mr Law, the jury heard, was standing on the platform with a tape measure - which he was lowering to the ground beneath.

He said: “I thought 'what the hell is he doing?' and I completely forgot about doing my job.

“I forgot to do the bolts up - that was my next job. I just heard a “bang”, a rattle of chains and I saw the platform going up. I ran to the platform but there was just nothing I could hold onto and he went down.”

The platform, he said, had swung 90 degrees from horizontal to vertical.

Mr Sallows said he had not wanted to build or use a platform for the work in the first place - concerns, he said, which were raised with Mr Law.

But, he stated, Mr Law said he needed the more secure scaffolding for works in the engine room.

Fellow team member George Potter, a slipmate, said he too saw Mr Law step onto the platform. He said: “I was thinking 'get off', it is not designed for somebody to stand on. There was no way he could hang on.”

Ian Cotgrove, the investigating officer from the Health and Safety Executive, said Mr Law's decision to use a platform instead of ladders or scaffolding did not conform to the method statements (specified ways of carrying out certain jobs) that were in place at George Prior Engineering.

He said the platform used was connected at only two points adding: “It is common sense that it will not be stable. Work at that height would require a stable platform.

“It would not have been considered an appropriate method of doing that job. It is apparent that he was keen to do the job well. But he decided to do it in this way for a reason for we will never know.”

The inquest jury returned a verdict of accidental death.

After the inquest, Mr Law's daughter, Sarah Carter, paid tribute to her father. “My father was a fantastic husband to my mum. He was a wonderful father and wonderful granddad. He will be so sadly missed. We are just devastated.”

She added: “He was a very caring man at work. My dad had worked all his life and worked so hard.”

laurence.cawley@eadt.co.uk

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