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Fatal Accident Inquiry into the circumstances of the death of Mr Michael Lindley Scott [2010] FAI 49


In terms of section 6(1)(a) of the Fatal Accident and Sudden Deaths Inquiry (Scotland) Act 2000, the Sheriff found that Mr Michael Lindley Scott died on 13 December 2006, following an accident which occurred before or around midday on the same day, at premises known as the Old Mill, York Place, Aberdeen. At the time of his death, the deceased was employed as an apprentice plumber. The cause of death was traumatic asphyxia, whereby his chest and neck were compressed by a considerable weight of MDF.

On 13 December 2006, the deceased arrived at his work premises at an unknown time, and neither his boss nor other employees had yet arrived. The deceased was alone in the building at the relevant time and had been instructed by an email from his boss to “tidy up upstairs”. When the deceased's employer arrived on the premises at around midday, he found the deceased pinned against the right wall of the ground floor corridor by 20 sheets of MDF. An ambulance was called and the MDF was removed. Attempts to resuscitate the deceased were unsuccessful, and the deceased was later pronounced dead at 12:52 at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

The Sheriff noted that as the deceased was alone in the building, it seems that he had decided to move at least one of the planks of MDF himself, but for what reason and how he attempted to do so, it was impossible to say. The Crown invited the court to make a recommendation that suppliers of MDF should give a warning printed or stamped on each sheet advising that MDF should be stored flat. In submissions for the employer, the court was not invited to make this recommendation, as there was no evidence to show that the deceased's employers had done something, or had failed to do something, whereby the accident could have been prevented; it was simply impossible to say how the accident had occurred.

The Sheriff decided not to make the Crown recommendation as such a recommendation could only be made if the court was satisfied that the accident might have been avoided had the warning been on the sheets at the time. The Sheriff noted that it was not possible to say, on the basis of the evidence, how the accident took place and it would therefore not be sensible or appropriate to say that a warning might have prevented it.

Secondly, the Sheriff noted that the recommendation, if made, would, sensibly, have to relate not only to MDF, but other material such as plasterboard and plywood. Other things such as doors and windows which might present similar hazards could not be excluded. The Sheriff concluded that a wide-ranging investigation would be needed to identify all such material and noted that this was not the function of an FAI.

Thirdly, the Sheriff noted that many people currently purchase MDF, plywood etc for DIY purposes, and accordingly, the cost and transport implications of such a warning would need to be considered in more depth; this was again a function not appropriate for a FAI.

The Sheriff therefore found that there were no reasonable precautions which could have been taken by the deceased's employers whereby his death might have been avoided, and there were moreover no defects in the system of working which contributed to the death or the accident resulting in the death.