Victim Relieved As Employer Pleads Guilty To Breaching Health And Safety Laws

Lawyers From Irwin Mitchell Demand Basic Health And Safety Improvements To Cut Accident Numbers

02.06.2011

A plater who suffered a string of serious injuries when an engineering machine dragged him through a hole the size of a CD case says he is “greatly relieved” after his former employer pleaded guilty to breaching safety regulations in court today (2 June).

Matthew Lowe, 25, from Barnsley, says he was lucky to even survive the accident which left him with a broken arm, nerve damage, a torn bowel, a fractured rib, fractures to his vertebrae and a smashed hip joint.

At the time of the accident Mr Lowe was working on a large saw and drill machine at Compass Engineering in Barnsley. As he was using the machine a lifting arm became attached to his overalls and dragged him through the five-inch wide hatch in the wall. In addition to his multiple physical injuries, Mr Lowe has also been left suffering with psychological injuries causing nightmares and flashbacks.

Workplace injury specialists at law firm Irwin Mitchell, representing Mr Lowe, welcomed the Health and Safety Executive’s decision to prosecute his former employer and called for more to be done to cut down the number of accidents at work. His solicitors are now working with Compass Engineering to seek a rehabilitation package to help his recovery.

Sally Rissbrook, a solicitor in Irwin Mitchell’s Workplace Injury team, said: “This was a horrific accident which has been extremely distressing for Mr Lowe, and it could so easily have been avoided if his employer had followed basic health and safety procedures.

“There is also a wider issue that needs to be addressed, as far too many people are injured each year through no fault of their own, simply while they are carrying out duties at work.

“Many of these cases would have been avoided if businesses had followed simple health and safety procedures, and more must be done to protect workers and make sure companies comply with regulations.

“We have repeatedly called for improvements in safety standards and will continue to campaign for the rights of the victims we represent.”

In a hearing at Barnsley Magistrates Court today (2 June), both Compass Engineering and Kaltenbach – the company who installed the machine – pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act. The matter has now been referred to Sheffield Crown Court for sentencing.

Mr Lowe said: “This prosecution isn’t about securing justice, or seeing Compass Engineering and Kaltenbach publicly flogged in court. 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.

“Too many people are needlessly killed and injured in accidents at work. If hearing my story makes them think twice about safety, and about the daily risks they face in the workplace, then I’ll be happy.

“Eliminating risk is now a big part of my life as I train to become a site supervisor. I know more than most why that is so important – and I really hope that message gets through.

“I would like to thank the doctors, my family, friends and solicitors at Irwin Mitchell for their help and support over this difficult time. I now hope to put the worst behind me and begin to move on with my life.”

Sally Rissbrook added: “After the suffering Mr Lowe has endured it is crucial that he is able to access the rehabilitation he needs in order to help him recover and rebuild his life.

“Not only has he suffered extreme physical injury but he has also suffered from the psychological impact associated with such an ordeal. It is now vital that he receives the necessary specialist rehabilitation, and hopefully this expert help will make a huge difference to his recovery and quality of life.”