James Paul, died while removing asbestos at Cwmcarn High School on July 19, 2013. His inquest began at Newport Coroner’s Court today.
The jury heard the 26-year-old, known to family and friends as Jamie, had been preparing to remove the toxic material from areas of the school by encasing areas in polythene sheeting, which is used to prevent any asbestos being left behind.
The senior coroner for Gwent, David Bowen, said Mr Paul had climbed into a cramped ceiling area, which he said contained “a million obstacles” and was cutting the sheeting with a stanley knife when he was electrocuted and died.
A post-mortem recorded his cause of death as electrocution, but a forensic scientist was unable to conclusively determine how this had happened.
Friend and colleague Christopher Hamer, who was working alongside Mr Paul the day he died, said both of them had raised concerns that the building’s electrics had not been properly isolated after seeing CCTV screens operating in a room near where they were working.
He said Mr Paul had been forced to climb up into a narrow roof area to fully be able to ensure the area they were removing asbestos from was fully encased in polythene.
Mr Hamer said he was in the room below Mr Paul when he heard him shout in pain. He realised something was wrong and ran to get help.
Mr Bowen also read a statement from Wayne Horler, who was also working on the site, who said he became aware something was wrong when Mr Hamer ran down the hall shouting ‘there’s something wrong with Jamie’.
In his statement Mr Horler said:
“As I looked at Jamie I could see there was something badly wrong. I tried to open his mouth but it was too hard.”
Mr Bowen also read a statement from site manager David Bennett who said the state of the electrics at the site was “shocking”.
“I do not feel we could have isolated most of the electrics at that school without knocking off all the power and running off generators”.
Mr Paul’s father also appeared before the inquest and confirmed his son was fully trained to remove the material and underwent regular training to ensure his skills and knowledge were up to scratch. He said;
“It’s a very health and safety conscious industry.”
The inquest continues.