Portworker's inquest opens

AN inquest opened today into the death of a trainee dockworker who fell 120 feet from a crane at Felixstowe Port.Greater Suffolk Coroner Dr Peter Dean heard how Dennis Burman had been up the crane as part of a training exercise for his new job at the port.

By Jessica Nicholls

AN inquest opened today into the death of a trainee dockworker who fell 120 feet from a crane at Felixstowe Port.

Greater Suffolk Coroner Dr Peter Dean heard how Dennis Burman had been up the crane as part of a training exercise for his new job at the port.

Safety measures surrounding trainees were questioned at the inquest at Ipswich Crown Court, after it emerged that Mr Burman and a fellow trainee were left to make their own way down the crane rather than being escorted.


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Mr Burman, 51, of The Poplars, Brantham, died on June 17 last year following the fall.

The jury at the inquest heard crane driver Michael Flatman say that safety memos to drivers were often obscured or lost on staff noticeboards, and that he could not remember receiving a crucial safety booklet because it has been sent to the wrong address.

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He said that although the port made sure that safety booklets were sent to employees' homes if they were on holiday, his booklets were going to a different address.

Dr Dean said it appeared as though in some cases it had been left to chance as to whether workers got to see important safety memos.

The inquest also heard from Michael Mee who was acting trainer at the time of the accident. He said that normally the candidates would have gone up on the crane a day later in their training course but Mr Burman's group had gone up a day early because a boat had burst.

He said trainees should go up the crane to get a view of where to safely stand when they were on the ground.

He said that he was aware of one version of the safety booklet surrounding this procedure but not that the second one was available.

Mr Mee told how there was several ways that trainees could come down from the cab, they could either come down with a crane driver, on their own after being escorted across the walkway to the lift with the crane driver or someone could come and get them.

But driver Michael Flatman said he had received no training in dealing with trainees and it was down to common sense based on their knowledge of regulations.

Another trainer Derek James said candidates were watched like hawks while they were on the ground because the port is a dangerous working environment.

He said he had told all the candidates that day that they should go up and down the crane with the crane drivers. However it also emerged that there had been a shift change among the crane drivers and the relief driver in Mr Burman's crane was not aware they were there.

Mr James said: "The crane always seems like a safe haven when you left them in the crane it almost seemed like a bit of a relief because you did not have to watch them. I never foresaw this happening."

Since the accident changes have been made in relation to the safety of trainees.

The inquest continues.

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