A PLANT operator was killed while trying to help a colleague clear a blockage in a machine at a Chepstow quarry, an inquest heard yesterday.

Gordon Thompson suffered serious head injuries when a metal pulley smashed through the windscreen of the cab of a loading shovel he was operating at Livox Quarry on March 22 last year.

Ajury inquest into his death held at Gwent Coroner’s Court, Newport, heard he and his colleague Mark Meadows were trying to free stones which had become jammed in the conveyor belt of a stone grader when the incident happened.

Mr Meadows tried for 90 minutes to release them by hand but to no avail, so decided to try and free them using a pulley system he had used a number of times before.

Although he had used this method around six times over the previous year it was not one shown to him by his employers and he was unsure if they knew he used it, the jury heard.

Mr Thompson, 60, agreed to help and the pair rigged up a pulley to the conveyor belt and attached it to a rope and chain. This was then hooked onto the loading shovel.

Mr Thompson went to operate the shovel, which would be used to pull the belt tight as Mr Meadows turned on the stone grader to see if the tension in the belt would release the stones.

But after a few seconds, Mr Meadows noticed the rope go slack and saw Mr Thompson was slumped in his seat.

A post-mortem examination found Mr Thompson, of Wigton, Cumbria, suffered a fractured skull, severe cerebral disruption and severe trauma, as a result of being hit on the forehead by the pulley system.

Jamie Davies, a specialist mechanical engineer for the Health and Safety Executive, examined the scene.

He told jurors the pulley used was heavily corroded and had bent under the tension.

This caused the rope with the pulley attached to catapult back towards the cab.

Mr Davies said the method used by Mr Meadows was unsafe and went against manufacturer’s instructions to unblock machines by hand.

Deputy Gwent Coroner Wendy James told the inquest jury that given the evidence only a verdict of accidental death could be returned.

Speaking after the hearing Mr Thompson’s twin brother Norman said the family believed it was the right outcome.