SADLY MISSED Joseph Harrington who died in a quarry accident.
Charlestown man Joseph Harrington’ inquest records death by misadventure
The family of a Charlestown man who died in a quarry accident in 2015 has said his death was preventable and called on employers to look after their employees.
Joseph Harrington (28) of Soonagh, Charlestown, died after sustaining fatal injuries while operating machinery in a quarry operated by Harrington Concrete and Quarries at Aughamore, Ballyhaunis, on June 11, 2015.
His inquest heard that his death was instantaneous after he fell into a rock crusher, and a jury has recorded a verdict of death by misadventure.
While his death was not witnessed, it is believed he fell into the crusher after he left his control cabin to operate a rock breaker in order to clear a blockage in the crusher.
Padraic McMahon, an Inspector with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), explained that there was no barrier around his work platform to prevent Mr Harrington from falling into the crusher. Harrington Concrete and Quarries was successfully prosecuted for health-and-safety breaches and fined €500,000 last year.
Operations in the quarry ceased for a number of months until safety enhancements were put in place around the control platform and elsewhere in the plant. Mr McMahon said that had those safety measures been in place at the time of the accident, ‘we wouldn’t be here today’.
‘Never came home’
Following the inquest, Mr Brian Gill, solicitor for Mr Harrington’s family, read a statement on their behalf.
“Next month marks the fourth anniversary of Joseph’s untimely and tragic death. On June 11, 2015, he went to work without a care in the world and never came home. His death was totally preventable and should never have happened. The last four years have been very painful for the family. Our abiding hope is that Joseph’s death is not in vain and we ask employers up and down the country to look after your employees. Joseph’s life was cut short, we love you Joseph and miss you terribly,” he stated.
Coroner for Mayo, Patrick O’Connor described quarrying as an ‘inherently dangerous industry’ and hoped lessons will be learned from the ‘tragedy’.
“Hopefully it will lead to much [more] careful dealings with the health and safety issues […] Perhaps others, not just the Harrington Concrete company, who are working in a very dangerous industry will learn by the tragic passing of Mr Harrington,” he said.
No answer from phone
The inquest heard that Mr Harrington had worked in the quarry for approximately a year before the accident, and that he operated the rock crusher as part of his job. He was described as a great worker by work colleagues, who gave evidence. His employer, Frank Harrington (no relation to the deceased) said he was a ‘most agreeable and capable young man’.
The quarry manager, Ivan Connor, explained that on the morning of the accident he arrived at work at 7.25am and met electrician John Duffy, who was repairing the secondary crusher.
Joseph Harrington arrived at around 8am and waited for the repairs to be completed. When the production line started and everything was working, Mr Connor said he gave Mr Harrington the thumps up, and he said he waved back to say everything was okay.
“That was the last time I saw Joe alive. It was 8.25am approximately,” he said.
The jury was told that stone from the quarry was loaded into a dump truck to be taken to the crusher. Mr Connor said that when the dump truck had not returned to be filled for a while, he decided to go and have a look to see what was causing the delay.
He said it was not unusual for the dump truck to have to wait to get a green light to unload the stone, but he got worried when there was no sign of Mr Harrington in his cabin or around the cabin and when there was no answer from his mobile phone.
Liam Walsh, the excavator at Harrington’s Quarry, explained he was waiting for Francis Doherty, the dump truck driver to return for a load of stone and when he did not return, he went with Ivan Connor to the primary crusher. He noticed that Joe was not at his work platform and found it unusual for the plant to be running while Joe was not there.
“I knew at this stage something was wrong and I decided to walk up to the control platform. I looked inside the cabin and could not see Joe. I turned off the secondary plant immediately,” he explained.
Francis Doherty explained that at approximately 9.05am he went to tip a load at the crusher and returned to get another load.
“As I passed the cabin I saw Joseph Harrington working at the controls of the rock breaker. The controls are situated beside his cabin. I went down to the quarry and got filled again. As I passed up I didn’t notice Joseph at the cabin. The door of the cabin was open. I continued up the hill to the rock bin arriving at approximately 9.15am. The light was red so I waited for it to turn green. It didn’t,” he explained.
Mr Doherty said it was not unusual to be waiting for the light to turn green and explained that at 9.50am when the light was still red, he decided to go to the canteen after seeing Mr Walsh and Mr Connor at the crusher.
He said he knew Joseph Harrington from school and described him as a lovely bloke who never had a bad word to say about anyone. He added he was great to work with and was badly missed.
The plant was closed down to search for Mr Harrington, who was found at around 10.10am in a screen shed, approximately 23 metres from his control cabin. It is believed that after falling through the crusher, he was taken along a conveyor belt to the screen shed.
The inquest heard that it was not unusual for rocks to block the crusher, and a rock breaker was often used to break up the rock.
During the inquest, Frank Harrington said their hearts were broken by Joseph Harrington’s death and he thinks of him every day.
When asked about the safety defects in the area where Joseph Harrington worked, Frank Harrington said they had never had any issues with the crusher in the 30 years before the incident. He said that if there were defects, he would hold his hands up, but that improvements had now been made. When asked by Mr Gill on how much the improvements cost, he said he could not say off-hand, but he estimated it would have been ‘a couple of thousand pound’.
When questioned by Mr Gill on the delay in telling the Harrington family about what happened to Joseph after he was found dead, Mr Harrington said he went to notify his mother with a priest but when they got to Charlestown, she had already heard and had gone to the quarry. He commented: “I’m sorry but there is not much I could do about it.” He added that since the accident they have employed a person to look after the HR side of the business.
Dr Tomas Nemeth, Consultant Pathologist explained that the postmortem found that the cause of death was due to multiple head injuries and vertebral injuries and that death would have been instantaneous. He said there was no evidence that Joseph Harrington suffered from a health problem prior to his death, and that his blood was negative for both alcohol and drugs.
After deliberating for over 30 minutes, the jury recorded that death was a result of misadventure. Mr Patrick O’Connor, Coroner for Mayo thanked the jury for their verdict and expressed his sympathy to the family of Joseph Harrington and all who grieve him. He said the only words of comfort he could give were that they remember the good times they had with him.