AN insulation engineer could not have fallen to his death at a Whitchurch storage plant if he had been wearing his safety harness correctly an inquest held in Wem heard last Wednesday.
A jury inquiring into the death of Paul Suthon, 41, could find no reason why he should suddenly plunge to his death from a mobile elevated work platform forty feet above the concrete floor of a Grocontinental warehouse.
The inquest recorded a verdict of accidental death on Mr Suthon, who died at the scene following the fall from a cherry picker while relagging ice-bound pipework in the cooling system at the warehouse on June 7 last year.
Mr Suthon, of New Street, St George’s, Telford, was self-employed, working for sub-contractors Driscoll Insulation of Burton-upon-Trent when he died.
The inquest was told Mr Suthon had just returned from lunch on the day of the accident ahead of his son, Mr Jamie Jordan, who was employed as his assistant, so no-one saw him fall.
In his statement Mr Jordan, 20, described his father as a very safety conscious man who would always fasten his harness to the anchorage point before raising the platform.
The inquest also heard of a conversation Mr Jordan was reported to have had with warehouse manager, Anthony Mark Fieldhouse, who in a statement, said after being informed of his father’s death, Mr Jordan became very upset and said his father had almost fallen from the platform earlier in the day when he was “not even strapped in” he said he had urged his father to put his safety harness on and he had done so.
Questioned by David Ellery, the Mid and North Shropshire Coroner, Mr Jordan said he could not remember the conversation.
Dr Dominic Swan, specialising in mechanical engineering for the Health and Safety Executive, said there was nothing wrong with the working of the cherry picker although it was not positioned close enough to allow Mr Suthon to work on the pipes.
He said the lanyard in the harness would have limited any fall to 1.8 metres and did not believe it could have been attached.
Questioned by members of the deceased man’s family, Dr Swan agreed it was possible the platform had not reached its working height following Mr Suthon’s lunch break.
James Watkin, environmental health officer with Shropshire Council, which was also involved in the investigation, said it would have been obvious to an experienced operator that he was not fastened on and believed it unlikely that Mr Suthon mistakenly believed he was attached.
He described the investigation into Mr Suthon’s death as ‘very frustrating’ as there was no obvious reason for the accident.