In December 2008, worker Matthew Lowe broke his back in two places, ruptured his stomach and bowel, shattered his pelvis and broke his right arm and several ribs after being dragged through a gap in a machine. The gap was no wider than a CD case. The company that operated the site and the company that supplied and commissioned the machine have been fined a combined total of £75,000.
In the case at Sheffield Crown Court, Compass Engineering (Mr Lowe’s employers), were fined £45,000 plus £34,000 costs and Kaltenbach, who supplied the machine, were fined £30,000 plus £16,000 costs. At an earlier hearing at Barnsley Magistrates’ Court, both companies were found guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Despite the machinery involved costing £300,000, Sheffield Crown Court heard that the safety features were inadequate. Judge Robert Moore described the accident as “foreseeable,” and compared the safety measures that were in place to a “chocolate fireguard.”
Compass Engineering was found to be responsible for failing to put a guard around the steel beam processing machine, and Kaltenbach was found to have signed off the device without making sure basic health and safety requirements were adhered to.
The only part of Mr Lowe’s body not dragged through the machine was his head. Despite suffering serious physical and psychological injuries, he has gone on to retrain in a new role. He has said that the most important thing to him is that the industry learns from his experience – “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.”
Both companies involved expressed their regret at the accident, and said they take their health and safety responsibilities very seriously. Since the incident occurred, £55,000 has been spent on safety features for the machine.
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