Firms plead guilty over accident
Two companies have pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety regulations after a worker miraculously survived being dragged through a five inch gap in a machine.
Compass Engineering Ltd and Kaltenbach Ltd were prosecuted after Matthew Lowe sustained horrific injuries when he was dragged through a machine for processing heavy steel beams at a factory in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, in December 2008.
Mr Lowe, now aged 25, ruptured his stomach and bowel, broke his back in two places, shattered his pelvis and fractured both hips, his right arm and several ribs when he all bar his head was dragged through the five inch gap.
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation revealed there was no guarding in place to protect the worker from dangerous moving parts on the computer-operated machine, which was the size of several tennis courts. Both companies admitted one charge each of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 at Barnsley Magistrates' Court.
Prosecuting, Chris Chambers said: "The machine could start, stop and restart without warning to the operator. As Matthew leaned through the hatch he was struck on the back of the shoulder and pulled through. Shoulder to feet he was pulled through the opening...the width of a CD case." The prosecutor said he suffered "life-threatening and life-changing" injuries and his family was told to prepare for the worst.
The court was told he managed to survive the ordeal and went on to make a good recovery, although he still suffers from some physical and emotional problems.
Chris Baranowski, for Compass Engineering, said the firm had spent thousands making sure the machine was now safe and was committed to health and safety at the factory.
James Ageros, for Kaltenbach, the company that commissioned and installed the machine, said senior management expressed deep regret for what happened and it was an "error of judgment" that machine guards were not in place at the time of the accident, but there was an agreement that Compass would do it.
Speaking after the case, Mr Lowe, a father of one, said: "It is a completely different life from what it was. I have suffered a setback in my mental health that has come as a bit of a shock. I still have problems with my right arm and left hip but that is not as bad as being told I might not make it. I still can't believe I'm here. The thought of how close I came to death still haunts me."
After hearing details of the accident, magistrates decided they did not have sufficient powers to sentence and the case was sent to Sheffield Crown Court, where sentencing will take place on June 30.