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13 January 2018, 10:31
The death of a construction worker on the Queensferry Crossing in 2016 was a "tragic accident", a sheriff has ruled.
John Cousin, 62, of Hexham in Northumberland, died from a chest injury after being struck by a crane boom extension weighing 550kg.
He suffered non-survivable injuries in the incident on the north tower deck of the bridge on April 28 2016.
At the time, Mr Cousin was employed as a leading hand/foreman working on the crossing under the umbrella of Forth Crossing Bridge Constructors (FCBC).
A fatal accident inquiry (FAI) into his death was held at Stirling Sheriff Court in November last year.
The inquiry heard that the 18-ton Giraf Track crane in question, which had been leased to FCBC by crane company GGR Group, was out of action at the time due to a burst hose that was leaking hydraulic oil.
The accident happened after GGR fitter Stewart Clark had been brought out to the bridge to help fix the machine and was working on it alongside Mr Cousin, the FAI heard.
Sheriff William Gilchrist has now ruled that the accident was caused by Mr Cousin removing a central pin which was holding a fly jib on to the boom arm of the crane, causing the jib to fall to the ground, striking him on the head and body.
The sheriff recommended that consideration be given to having warning labels attached to pivot pins on cranes, "advising operators not to remove the pin without first having confirmed that the fly jib is secured by another pin".
In a written determination issued on Friday, the sheriff concluded: "This was a tragic accident.
"I can understand why Mr Cousin's family might believe that he would not have removed the central pin on his own initiative.
"I can therefore understand why they might be critical of Stewart Clark's competence and the training provided to him by his employers. However, on balance, I am not persuaded that he instigated or acquiesced in the removal of the pin.
"Accordingly, the criticisms of his training, while justified, cannot give rise to a finding of a defect in a system of work because any such defect would not have contributed to the cause of the accident."
He went on: "Given the critical importance of not removing the central pin until the front of the fly jib is secured to the front of the boom arm, and the likely fatal consequences if this is not done, it is arguable that there ought to be some form of warning attached to the pin alerting anyone contemplating its removal not to do so without first checking that it is safe to do so."
Mr Cousin was described by witnesses at the inquiry as a good friend and colleague who would help others and was vastly experienced and reliable in his job.
Construction of the £1.3 billion new bridge across the Forth began in 2011 and it was officially opened by the Queen in September 2017.