Exclusive: Payout win for welder blinded in work horror

A MAN blinded when a five-tonne metal sheet sliced into his head at work has won a two-year battle for compensation with employers who refused to accept liability.

Mark Downs now stands to win a seven-figure payout after the metal sheet, which was being moved with a crane, swung out of position at the engineering firm where he worked.

Paramedics were forced to resuscitate him twice on the way to hospital as a result of his injuries and he spent 19 hours in surgery where doctors fought to keep him alive.

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The 39-year-old, who had worked at Hadee Engineering, in Halfway, Sheffield, for more than 15 years, still bears deep scars on his head where the metal sheet struck him.

He suffered a deep skull fracture, brain contusions and a right-sided brain haemorrhage, as well as multiple fractures to his eye sockets and damage to his back and left leg.

At one point Mr Downs's despairing family asked doctors to switch off his life-support machine because they could not bear to think of him struggling with his injuries.

But surgeons insisted that he was given a chance, and at his home in Eckington, near Sheffield, yesterday, Mr Downs said he was determined to get on with his life.

The former welder said: "After it happened my ear was hanging off and I had to have 53 staples in my head. I can't remember anything about that day or what happened.

"It has wiped out a lot of my memory of 2007 – I can't remember any of the floods in Sheffield which happened earlier in the year. I have also lost all sense of smell and taste.

"I will never see again and I will never work again, and I have spent six months of my life in hospital. It has been hell for my family who have had to fight for compensation."

The keen golfer said he was hoping to get back on the course in the next few months with the help of a physiotherapist, and added he missed the taste of his favourite beer.

Mr Downs's mother Sandra, spends all her time with her son and said when he first started to recover he could not talk or walk and has been taught those skills again by his family.

She added: "It has been terrible. I have just cried and cried. When we got to the hospital they gave us a long list of things that were wrong with Mark, but it didn't sink in.

"I just can't explain what we have had to go through.

"At first they gave him just four days. But all the family were there every day and we were there all night when they did the first operation. We have just persevered."

Mrs Downs said some people had even started to make arrangements for her son's organs to be donated, but she was determined that he was going to survive.

She criticised the authorities for failing to take action after the accident and said "nobody was bothered" about what had happened until she engaged a lawyer to investigate.

The incident happened on October 24, 2007, and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and South Yorkshire Police were initially called in to investigate.

No HSE prosecution was brought against Hadee Engineering because of "insufficient evidence", but a High Court judge severely criticised health and safety at the company.

Ruling the firm must take 100 per cent responsibility, Mr Justice MacDuff QC said there had been serious breaches of regulations to safeguard employees.

Rachael Aram, a brain injury specialist at Sheffield-based lawyers Irwin Mitchell, represented Mr Downs. She said: "It has been a real battle for this family.

"Employers have a duty of care to look after those who are working for them. This horrific accident should never have happened, and had Mr Downs' employers followed basic health and safety regulations it would have been avoided."

Bosses at Hadee Engineering said they had "no comment at this time" on the case.