Steel worker dragged through CD-size hole

Aaron Morby 13 years ago
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A steel worker sustained horrific injuries but miraculously escaped with his life after being dragged through a gap no wider than a CD case.

Matthew Lowe, 23, was working for Barnsley structural steel fabricator  Compass Engineering as a plate welder when his overalls got caught on a high-powered conveyor system for moving heavy steel beams.

Barnsley Magistrates’ Court heard that  Lowe’s clothing snagged on the machine and he was forced though an opening just 125mm high on the machine head, suffering horrific injuries that have caused lasting physical and psychological damage.

Lowe suffered a ruptured stomach and bowel, broke his back in two places, shattered his pelvis, and fractured both hips, his right arm and several ribs.

The HSE investigation into the incident on 19 December 2008 found there was no guarding in place to protect the worker  – a serious safety failing for both his employer and the machine supplier, Kaltenbach.

The court was told that both parties were responsible for ensuring sufficient guarding was in place. The machine ultimately belonged to Compass Engineering after it was bought from new, but Kaltenbach installed and signed-off the equipment as being fit and ready for use.

Both Compass Engineering and Kaltenbach pleaded guilty to safety breaches and magistrates have remitted the case to Sheffield Crown Court for sentencing.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Chris Chambers said:  “It almost defies belief that Mr Lowe’s body could contort in such a way to fit through the opening it did, and it’s even more astonishing that he survived to tell the tale.

“Compass Engineering had at least had the good grace to stand by Lowe and provide continued support, but both they and Kaltenbach ultimately failed to protect the young worker when it mattered most.”

After the case, Lowe said:  “What matters most is that the industry learns from my experience. My life has changed forever and no matter how well I recover from my physical injuries I will still have the psychological impact of the accident hanging over me.

“I hope my case highlights the dangers posed by not following health and safety regulations. It still won’t be able to put my life back to how it was before the accident but at least then it might prevent others from suffering in the future.

“If hearing my story makes them think twice about safety and about the daily risks they face in the work place, then I’ll be happy. Eliminating risk is now a big part of my life as I train to become a site supervisor.”

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