Firms found guilty over man dragged into machine

Matthew Lowe,pictured, at Barnsley Magistrates Court who was injured in an industrial accident. Compass Engineering and Kaltenbach are being prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive

Matthew Lowe,pictured, at Barnsley Magistrates Court who was injured in an industrial accident. Compass Engineering and Kaltenbach are being prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive

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Matthew’s slight build saved him as he was pulled through a gap ‘no bigger than a CD case.’

Matthew Lowe, aged 23 at the time, was working on the machine which cuts metal, when his clothing snagged and he was pulled through a five inch gap.

Mr Lowe, of Coltfield, Birdwell, Barnsley, was forced through from his feet to his shoulders and suffered horrific injuries which almost claimed his life.

His stomach and bowel were ruptured, his back broken, his pelvis shattered and he fractured both hips and a number of ribs.

The injuries were listed at Barnsley Magistrates Court where the Health and Safety Executive revealed the machine he was working on had not been fitted with a safety guard.

Chris Chambers, prosecuting for the executive, said Mr Lowe was fortunate to survive the crush and it was only his slight build which saved him.

Mr Lowe’s employers Compass Engineering Limited, based in Barugh Green, Barnsley, pleaded guilty to breaching Health and Safety Legislation, as did Bedfordshire-based firm Kaltenbach Ltd, which supplied the machinery.

Speaking outside court, Mr Lowe, who is still employed by Compass and is training to be a site supervisor, said: “What matters most is that the industry learns from my experience.

“My life has changed forever and no matter how well I have recovered 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.”

Mr Chambers said that since the machine was used to handle heavy steel, it did not recognise a body was being dragged through it.

Mr Lowe, a trained plater and welder, had only started working on the machine three days earlier. He was still being trained on how to use it when he was crushed in December 2008.

The court heard he had leaned through a window-type hatch to check on the whereabouts of some metal in the yard outside. He then loaded the machine up and got caught on a moveable part.

He was rushed to Barnsley hospital with “life threatening injuries” and underwent an emergency operation.

His family was told he was unlikely to survive.

The HSE found other workers regularly looked through the hatch, a practice Mr Chambers said was “completely unacceptable”.

“There were no fixed guards to prevent access to dangerous parts of the machinery,” he said, adding there was a history of “serious and fatal injuries” involving the machines, including a fatality in Barnsley.

Chris Baranowski, representing Compass, said the firm expressed “sincere regret” that a “trusted and hard-working” employee had been injured.

He added the company was committed to ensuring the health and safety of its employees, although admitted the firm had “fallen short” regarding Mr Lowe’s accident.

James Ageros, defending Kaltenbach, said Compass had asked them if they could fit the machine guards itself, adding Kaltenbach had “kept its side of the bargain, but Compass hadn’t.”

Both firms will be sentenced at Sheffield Crown Court.

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