South Scotland

Log pile death near Kelso a 'tragic accident'

Bowmont Forest Sawmill Image copyright Google
Image caption Mr Marshall died near the disused Borders sawmill in June 2015

The death of a forestry worker after a log pile became unstable was a tragic accident, a sheriff has found.

Andrew Marshall, 71, died from a head injury and compression of his chest after becoming trapped under a fallen wooden log.

The accident happened on a track near the disused Bowmont Forest Sawmill near Kelso on 11 June 2015.

The Health and Safety Executive found there were no breaches of legislation arising from the incident.

Mr Marshall regularly visited the sawmill, even after retiring as a forester from Floors Farms part of Roxburghe Estates, to fell trees and cut up logs.

A fatal accident inquiry at Jedburgh Sheriff Court was told he spoke to timber yard manager Andrew Agnew, 52, on the morning of his death.

He asked about getting the use of a forklift to remove a large log from the top of the pile which had become dislodged.

'Lying on me'

Mr Agnew said he would assist after lunch but when he arrived at the log pile shortly after 14:00 he saw Mr Marshall's white pick-up truck was already there and thought he must have changed his mind and decided to move it himself.

He explained: "When I got closer I could see him lying at the side of the pick-up with the log - I assume which was the one he wanted to move - on top of him.

"I went back down the track to the sawmill and said to a colleague who was working in the yard that I thought Andrew had been killed and to phone 999."

Mr Agnew recalled how Mr Marshall had asked him for help moving the log earlier saying: "It is better lying on the ground than lying on me."

Estate forestry manager Peter Darling, 56, said Mr Marshall was a regular visitor carrying out tree work to get logs for extra cash.

However, he said had not expected him to go onto the pile and start cutting them up.

Mr Darling said he had previously agreed that the pile of logs would be moved back into the yard where it would be safer to work on.

Depute fiscal Rosie Cook said there were no witnesses to the accident and Mr Marshall's life was pronounced extinct by a paramedic at 15:00.

She said Mr Marshall had carried out work on the stack earlier that day removing a number of logs.

'Experienced forester'

Ms Cook added: "The removal of the logs caused the log pile to become unsteady and trap Mr Marshall underneath it.

"If he had gone ahead with a risk assessment and not worked alone, the accident may have been avoided."

In his determination Sheriff Peter Paterson said: "This was clearly a tragic accident.

"Mr Marshall was a well-liked and experienced forester."

He said the cause of death was effectively concussion and compression to the chest due to the falling of the log.

The sheriff continued: "I am satisfied that if Mr Marshall had adhered to his original view to allow the large log on the top of the pile to be removed by the forklift then the accident in all probability would not have occurred."

He said there was no fault in the role of Roxburgh Estates or specifically Floors Farming Partnership in the circumstances surrounding the death.

The family of Mr Marshall, who lived at Heiton, near Kelso, said afterwards they had no issues with the outcome of the inquiry and described it as a "freak accident".

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