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From injury to fatality

In past blog posts we’ve discussed some of the cases of workers known to have had more than one accident – a theme to which we return today. Albert Robert Cox forms part of the group of 14 individuals who each had 2 accidents.

His first documented accident took place on 25 November 1911, at 10.45am at Normanton, West Yorkshire. At age 34 he was employed as a shunter, rostered on for an 8 hour shift. Four and three-quarter hours in he had his shoulder fractured. Normanton was, at this point, a vast railway hub, with a huge amount of shunting taking place.

The complexity of Normanton station and yards, mapped in 1905.
Courtesy National Library of Scotland maps.

Amos Ford’s investigation into the accident found that an engine was moving a wagon from a siding to the shunting neck (the point at which a series of sidings converged into a length of track provided to allow shunting to take place without using the main lines). Cox stepped backwards, to signal to the driver that the wagon had moved past the points – but as he did so he stepped into the way of another shunting neck. Unfortunately for him, at that moment another engine was approaching and it knocked him down. Ford noted that as there was 10 feet between the shunting necks, ‘Cox is alone responsible for the mishap’ (1911 Quarter 4, Appendix C).

Second-time round Cox wasn’t so fortunate to escape with only an injury. The details of the case were similar to his first accident. It occurred at Normanton again, on 1 March 1915, at 3.45pm. By this time Cox was head shunter, booked on for a shift of 8 hours – though the report, again by Amos Ford, notes that he had been on duty for 9 ¾ hours by the time of the accident. Whether this was a regular wartime exigency or a one-off isn’t stated – and indeed the hours of work aren’t remarked upon in the report.

This time Cox was standing to the side of a siding, watching a wagon approaching from the shunting neck; he was waiting for the wagon to arrive, so he could apply the brakes as it came to the required position in the siding. Ford’s report stated that ‘without any special reason Cox wrongly concluded that the wagon was being run’ to another siding, instead of the one he was near. On that basis, Cox decided to cross the siding ‘when he was knocked down and run over.’

Cox was presumably fatally injured – that is, injured at the scene but dying later: in this case ‘the same night.’ Ford put the accident down to ‘want of caution’ (a standard phrase we’ve encountered before in these reports; 1915 Quarter 1, Appendix C). He made no reference to Cox’s earlier accident – perhaps not surprising, given he would have dealt with many hundreds of other cases between the two accidents, but a sad testament to the forgettable nature of the individual workers.

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