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Two scalds, same cause

Of all of the types of injuries that appear in our database, burns and scalds are relatively infrequent. This might just be an artefact of the cases that were chosen for investigation by the Inspectors – or it might be a reasonable representation of the actual numbers of these types of cases. Regardless, the accidents did occur (and we’ve discussed some of them here and here) – and during this week in 1914 there were 2 of them.

Advice from the Caledonian Railway’s 1921 ‘Vigilance Booklet’ on scald accidents.

The first occurred on 3 July, at 12.30pm at Cambuslang in Lanarkshire, Scotland. Driver James Rodger was working with his fireman William Davidson in the goods yard. Rodger left the footplate to apply oil to the buffers. As he did so, Davidson put on one of the engine’s injectors (things that used steam to force water in the boiler) ‘and the result was that [Rodger] had his left leg scalded by steam and hot water rushing from the overflow pipe.’ The case was investigated by Charles Campbell, who concluded that the accident was due to Davidson’s ‘want of thought’ – he should have given a warning before opening the injector (1914 Quarter 3, Appendix C). This was something which made it into the Caledonian Railway Company’s 1921 accident prevention booklet.

Harrington Junction, seen in c.1923, but showing the complex of sidings in which the accident occurred.
Courtesy National Library of Scotland Maps.

Just 4 days later, and there was another example, remarkably similar. This time it occurred at Harrington Junction, near Workington in the Lake District. At 2pm Thomas Penrice Norman, an assistant shunter and aged only 18, was at work in some sidings. Just as Norman stepped from the shunting engine, the fireman, F McNichol put on the injector – with the escaping steam and hot water coming into contact with Norman’s left leg. Inspector Amos Ford saw the incident as accidental, but also recommended that ‘for future safety’ enginemen should be given special instructions to warn them against opening the injector when at stations or sidings before they’ve checked no-one else was nearby (1914 Quarter 3, Appendix C). Whether or not the Cleator & Workington Junction Railway Company issued these instructions is unrecorded.

There are plenty of other ways in which burns and scalds found their way into the database – but we should also be aware of those cases which probably didn’t find their way in the official record, as workers might not have wanted to report accidents for fear of being taken away from crucial money-earning opportunities, or a number of other possibilities. This was one area where it might be possible to have an accident at work and carry on, at least until the severity of the burn/ scald was understood.

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