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July 26, 2011

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Minerals firm failed to eliminate unsafe work practices

A lone worker suffered serious injuries when he became impaled on the spikes of an industrial hopper grill.

Plant operator Simon Lowe, 30, was working at Dupre Minerals Ltd’s factory in Newcastle-under-Lyne, when the incident took place on 17 July 2010. The company processes the mineral vermiculite and Mr Lowe was placing bags of the substance into a hopper, so it could be heated as part of the production process. Only two other workers were on site at the time, and he was working alone in the plant room.

Mr Lowe walked round the back of the hopper and climbed up an attached ladder to the grill of the machine to empty a bag of vermiculite into it. But he lost his balance, and fell on to spikes that were positioned on the grill, which were used to open the bags. His hip was impaled on the spikes but he managed to pull himself free, as nobody was around to help him. He then climbed down the ladder and went to find a colleague for help. He suffered deep puncture wounds, a broken pelvis, a fractured spine, internal bleeding, and lacerated tendons in his thumb. He is still unable to return to work owing to his injuries.

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