Recent Accident at Breich Oil Works, 1901

type: Safety - misconduct, injury or death at work

Linlithgowshire Gazette,
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In Linlithgow Sheriff Court on Thursday - before Sheriff Macleod and a jury—a public inquiry was held as to the death of Adam Thomson Stewart, retort foreman, who met his death being jammed between two hutches at Breich Oil Works on 23rd June.

Mr Main, procurator-fiscal, conducted the inquiry, and there were also present Mr T. H. Lockhart Thomson, W.S., Edinburgh, for the Hermand Oil Company; Mr D. L. Smith. Glasgow, for the Insurance Company; and Mr James Kidd, solicitor, Linlithgow, for the widow of the deceased.

The first witness was John Muir Thomson, manager for the Oil Company, who deponed that the works had been recently remodelled. On the morning of the accident deceased was at the works along with witness, about 6.15. Witness had prepared a plan showing the workings, and also where the accident occurred, which he described to the jury.

There was a slight incline from the breaker to the hopper. That morning there was a hutch at the breaker. It was the duty of the men who filled the hutches to put the chain into the gabby. Stewart was stooping down clearing the points, when witness saw the hutch coming round the comer, and called to deceased, but the latter had not time to escape. The hutch caught him the shoulder and his head was crushed between the hutches and another one. Witness at once had him removed and sent for the doctor.

Examined by Mr Kidd , witness said there were no men at the point where the hutch left. It was he who instituted the endless chain system. They had no specific system when to hook on the chain. The only system they had was when the empty one was going up, the full one was sent down. The one hutch should have been sent away before the other hutch arrived.

In reply to the Sheriff, witness said if the hutch had not gone off the rails there would have been no accident. Alex. Baird said he understood how the haulage was to be worked. He had nothing to do with the hutches that morning. He was to go with the joiners to repair the breakers.

The manager asked him on the morning in question to go and see how the haulage was working, and when he went round there was a hutch off the road. It was not his work detach the chain. He was assisting get the hutch on to the rails when he heard the manager shouting to look out, as there was a hutch coming.

Witness got away in time, but deceased did not. The fore wheels of the hutch were on the rails when the accident happened. He was of opinion that deceased was in the act of lifting the hutch when he got struck.

Examined Mr Kidd, witness said the manager was hurrying on the work that day.

Examined by Mr Smith, witness said so far he knew, the chain only left the gabby at times.

In reply to the Court, witness said it was the custom of the men at the breaker to leave the breaker and detach the chain if it did not come off itself. One would have expected that the operations would have been stopped until the rail was cleared.

Wm. M'Whinnie, retortman, said he and John Hamilton filled a hutch at the reserve hopper, but they did not chain it. They wanted to see the chain working, but as the hutch stuck after they filled it, they just left it. They heard of the accident shortly after.

Corroborative evidence was given by John Hamilton. Mrs Stewart said it about half-past seven when she heard of the accident, and her husband was brought in immediately afterwards. Dr Campbell attended him. He was unconscious and remained so until his death took place on the morning of 27th July.

This concluded the evidence and the Sheriff, addressing the jury, said a number views could be taken of the case, but it would be rash of them to express any opinion on them. He suggested the following verdict:—“The accident to Adam Thomson Stewart, retort foreman, employed at Breich Oil Works, belonging to the Hermand Oil Company, Limited, took place about 6.15 o’clock the morning of Sunday, 23rd June, while the deceased was engaged either helping to put derailed hutch on the hutch-road or cleaning the points at the shale breaker at the said works, when a hutch came unexpectedly from the hopper haulage road, and crushed the head of the deceased between it and the other hutch standing at the breaker; that death took place at the deceased residence at Guns Green Toll about 4.30 on the morning of Thursday 27th June, and that death was due to injuries sustained.”

This verdict was adopted by the jury.

Linlithgowshire Gazette, 2nd August 1901