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Inquest into 2018 Oro-Medonte quarry death reveals 'hidden hazard' in old rock crusher

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The inquest into a workplace death at an Oro-Medonte quarry wrapped Tuesday with an engineering consultant's witness testimony about the "hidden hazard" that resulted in Michael Pridham's death.

Pridham died in the hospital on Dec. 21, 2018, from injuries he sustained after a rock crusher pinned the 35-year-old Barrie, Ont. man.

The machine, which was more than 30 years old, didn't have an operations manual, so instead, the workers relied on experience to dismantle it for transport to an auction.

Witnesses testified the team followed safety protocols, including protective gear, a site walkthrough, and a risk assessment.

The final witness for the inquiry, Altaf Gafoor, an engineering consultant with the Ministry of Labour, testified that based on his findings from the accident scene investigation, the risk assessment didn't account for a threat the workers didn't know existed.

Gafoor recreated a model of the exact rock crusher to explain what likely went wrong while the team attempted to fold the machine.

He described the conveyor's folding system as a draw bridge that can fold in half in either direction when the pins are removed from a hinge in the middle of the conveyor.

Gafoor said the conveyor was attached to the body of the crusher by two cables, but only one of the cables - connected to the middle hinge point where the conveyor folds - was shortening in length from the hand crank.

As the conveyor rose off the ground, both cables had tension, but when the middle hinge point rose above the top cable, it hit a point of instability, losing tension and causing it to collapse on Pridham when he stepped forward to nudge it.

The three legal counsels and the six jurors involved in the mandatory inquest didn't provide recommendations for future changes after determining the tragic incident was accidental.

The presiding coroner, Dr. Geoffrey Bond, said the inquiry wasn't about legal responsibility; rather it was about understanding what happened and identifying lessons learned from the circumstances.

Bond added that at these inquests, "We speak for the dead to protect the living."

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