Painter falls from railway station roof

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1914 Police Court

At the Scarborough County Court today, before his Honour Judge Fossett Lock, John Watkinson Vasey, painter, 40, Trafalgar Street West, Scarborough, claimed against T Metcalfe and Sons, decorators, Darlington, for injuries received on April 6th whilst painting at the Scarborough Railway Station. Mr GB Parker was for plaintiff, and Mr HF Heath (Sunderland) for respondents.

Mr Parker said that plaintiff started work on Monday April 6th, painting the roof of the railway station. He had worked two weeks and two and a half days when the accident happened.

Replying to his Honour, Mr Parker said this was the first employment of plaintiff by the respondents.

Mr Parker then submitted a rough model showing how the painting of the roof was done. Vasey had to finish at the end ports of the roof what the other painters could not reach in the ordinary course of their work. Frequently the men got to their work by climbing on to a railway truck from which they were able to get on to the swing scaffold. The really correct way to get on to the swing scaffold was by means of a ladder and along a platform. In the morning he had slipped whilst climbing from the top of a truck and that made him nervous. After dinner he climbed up by a fall pipe of the buttress. He thought that was the easiest way for him to get to the swing scaffold. In putting his foot or hand on to the swing, it gave and he had not sufficient hold of it. Consequently he fell, and that was how the accident happened.

Plaintiff bore out the above in evidence, and stated that on returning to work after dinner, two of the three ladders were in use by painters, who were painting from them, and a third was at the end of the platform under the roof along which he might have travelled, but he regarded that way as exceedingly dangerous. Consequently he climbed the buttress, which he regarded as far the best way, and on placing his hand on the swinging scaffold where he wanted to be it swayed and he over-balanced and fell. He was used to climbing, having been a sailor for between seven and eight years. He did not think it was a dangerous thing to do to climb the buttress. He considered it much safer than going along the proper way over the platform under the roof by way of the ladder at the other end. By the fall his right foot was very much sprained and his left arm injured. He had since been totally incapacitated from work. Taking it from the Monday to the Saturday he earned £1 12s for 64 hours at 6d an hour. Second week 63 hours £1 11s. Up to the accident two and a half days he earned 14s 3d. In reply to a communication to the respondents, the latter wrote denying liability and alleging that had plaintiff used the ladder and plank which were provided for him to reach his work the accident would not have happened.

Further cross-examined: The mate who was working on the swinger with him did not go up the same way as plaintiff.

Robert Smalley said he was engaged as painter for respondents, but did not see the accident happen. He was engaged on the same work as plaintiff. He got on to the platform by two ways, going along the girders from the carriage top, and by the tie rods. There were about 18 men working, and four ladders. When the carriages were in, witness got up by means of carriage several times during the day.

In reply to the defending solicitor witness said that he knew that this was prohibited about a month ago.

In summing up his Honour said there were three ways by which the plaintiff could have reached the roof. If the carriages were there he could have got up by the carriages. Whether there was prohibition or not the men went up by those carriages, and had an accident occurred they would have been entitled to compensation. There was a ladder near the wall, and another ladder on the centre of the platform, and two other ladders. If he had gone to the foreman and asked for one of these ladders it was probable that he might have had it, or gone by the central platform ladder and reached his place by means of planks or by the rods. If he had been injured in either of these three ways he would have been entitled to compensation. What did he do? He saw a fall pipe against a buttress, there being half-inch nicks in the buttress, and climbed the pipe, and not withstanding that he slipped, he went on again. Climbing up the buttress like this to get up to work was quite deserving of greatest admiration, and if it had been an athletic contest he would have got a prize probably (laughter), but he could not hold an employer responsible for a risk like that.

His Honour had no alternative but to dismiss the case.