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Inquest begins for Toothill father killed at abattoir
A FATHER was crushed to death while cleaning a machine in an abattoir, an inquest has heard.
Adrian Roberts, of Toothill, who had been working at F Drury and Sons, in Royal Wootton Bassett, for about a year, was killed instantly when he was trapped between a platform and a hydraulic arm on August 18, 2011.
A jury at an inquest in Salisbury yesterday heard the 49-year-old was found by a member of staff after he became trapped in the hide puller, which is used to take the hide off the carcasses.
Speaking at the inquest, managing director Christopher Drury said: “It’s very tragic for the firm and I don’t know how he did it. It’s very tragic for his family. He was a very popular member of staff.”
The jury heard that two stop switches and two isolator switches were used to turn the hide puller off before cleaning started.
“He must have had some deliberate reason for switching it on. I don’t know what it was,” he said.
Slaughtering finished at about 3pm on the day of the incident. Mr Roberts was last seen at 4.15pm and at 5.15pm his body was found by loading bay supervisor Martin Ball.
“He was slumped over the cage of the rise-and-fall platform. It wasn’t uncommon to see Adrian slumped over something taking a break,” he said. “I shouted up to him ‘what’s up?’. There was no reply so that’s when I went up to see what his problem was. Adrian was trapped between a puller and a rise and fall platform. His hands were blue. I knew he was dead.”
The court heard cleaners were not expected to turn machinery on but Adam Bielenuki said he always turned the hide puller back on when he cleaned it.
“When I switched it on I could wash the machine a lot better underneath,” he said. “You don’t need to switch it on but I switched it on because it was more comfortable for me. That’s the way my friend showed me how to do it.”
Former cleaner at the abattoir Scott Sturgess, who trained Mr Roberts, said he had never told the deceased to turn the machine back on to clean it, as Mr Bielenuki had been doing.
He said he was not aware that Mr Roberts had ever turned the machine back on to clean it.
“I specifically said to Adrian no machines should be turned on. He never questioned me about it,” he said.
The jury heard the cleaners used power washers to clean the equipment and it was not always possible to hear whether machinery was on.
A Health and Safety Executive investigation is under way but the court heard changes have been made at the abattoir after recommendations from inspectors.
The isolator switches on the machinery are now locked at the end of the day, which means they cannot be switched back on.
The railing on the moveable platform Mr Roberts was on at the time of the incident has been raised too.
The jury heard Mr Roberts had been upset during the day following some banter from fellow workers.
Martin Ball told the inquest that some of the other staff ‘didn’t know when to stop’ and that Mr Roberts had thrown a knife down in a temper before leaving the building temporarily.
The inquest continues tomorrow.