Fatality at New Hermand oil works, 1903

type: Safety - misconduct, injury or death at work

Linlithgowshire Gazette
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Before Hon. Sheriff-Substitute Turnbull and a jury at Linlithgow on Tuesday, a public inquiry was held under the Fatal Accidents Inquiry (Scotland) Act as to the death of a labourer named Michael Murray, who was fatally injured the New Hermand Oil Works, belonging to the Pumpherston Oil Company, on the 10th inst.

The inquiry was conducted Mr Main, procurator-fiscal of the county. John Hill, foreman to Thomas Topping, building contractor, Edinburgh, with whom the deceased was employed, stated that on the day of the accident he was employed at the New Hermand Works taking down the retorts and other buildings which had been acquired the Pumpherston Oil Company.

A number of men, of whom the deceased was one, were engaged removing the brick work. The deceased’s particular work was in removing bricks from a heap at the bottom of the retorts and handing them out to another man to clean. Witness saw the deceased working there about five minutes before the accident occurred. Shortly afterwards heard a shout, and going the end the bench he saw Murray on the ground. He had been using short iron pinch to remove the bricks. There was a wooden plank beside the deceased, which had been used for wheeling the bricks upon. He could not say if deceased was lying on the plank, because he had been raised up off his back before he (witness) got down. He heard from other people that his head had been resting on this plank. There was large iron bolt in the end of the plank.

He was removed to the office, and medical aid was summoned. He was attended by Dr Young, West Calder. Everything was done that could possibly be done for him, and he was subsequently taken to his home. The only theory witness could give as accounting for the accident was that, when pinching the brick, the pinch may have slipped, or Murray himself might have slipped on the loose bricks. So far he could judge, there was nothing to cause him to fall, except in slipping. It was thought at first that he had taken a fit but witness had never heard of him being subject to fits.

Witness learned that Murray had died the same night. Alex. Anderson, labourer, Gavieside Rows, said he knew the deceased, Michael Murray, and had known him for about 30 years. He was a very stout man, but he never heard of him being subject to fits. The deceased was employed in removing the bricks at the retorts, and was handing the bricks out to witness to be cleaned.

About ten o’clock that day he saw the deceased lying the ground on his back. Thinking there was something wrong, he, along with others, ran to his assistance. Murray had been using a short pinch at his work, and he saw where the pinch was lying. It was lying close to the spot where he had been working. There was a plank behind him, and he had fallen upon the plank. There was an iron bolt the end of the plank, and his head was lying near the bolt. There was slight mark on the back of the head, as if he had fallen on the bolt with all his weight.

When found he was almost unconscious. He was taken to the works office, and attended by Dr Young, and afterwards removed to his home. There was nothing indicate that any bricks had fallen from the top. It was only a surmise that he had slipped his foot from the position in which was lying.

Similar evidence having been given by George Graham, labourer, Mossend, and Mrs Kane, sister of the deceased, having stated that her brother had never been subject to fits. Dr Young said he received intimation of this accident shortly before eleven o’clock on 10th inst. He was at the works in about ten minutes after getting the message. Murray was this time practically unconscious. He was suffering from a slight scalp wound, about an inch in length, and slight concussion of the brain. When he saw him, he said was afraid he would not recover. He attended him, and he was afterwards removed to his sister’s house in a machine.

He was very heavy man, perhaps 18 or 20 stones. In his opinion a man of that weight, falling with his head upon a bolt such that produced, would cause concussion. That would account for the mark on the back of the head. He had known the deceased for twenty years, and never knew of him having any complaints except toothache. The jury returned a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence.

Linlithgowshire Gazette, 25th September 1903