A 23-year-old construction worker died after a scissor-grab piece of machinery closed on his head, an inquest was told yesterday.

Steven Allen, of Highfield Road, Keighley, was taken to Bradford Royal Infirmary in March, 2007, with severe head injuries.

Two days later his mother Judith took the difficult decision to have his life support machine switched off and his heart went to save the life of a 12 year-old girl.

Yesterday colleagues of Mr Allen, an employee of Skipton-based JN Bentley, gave witness accounts to Bradford coroner’s court of the incident, which occurred during the creation of a waste recycling plant on Midland Road in Bradford.

Site foreman Stephen Kelly, who was just feet away from the incident when it happened, told Assistant Deputy Coroner Paul Marks that Steven and his colleagues were helping move a wooden pallet rack carrying bags of cement with a Probst SG 80 Scissor Grab machine when the incident happened.

He said: “The grabber lifted the pallet and bags of cement and the cement blocks slid off onto the floor.

“Then Steve grabbed the pallet and the pellet dropped out and the jaws grabbed around his head.”

He added: “I thought the pallet must not have been parallel when it was lifted and that is why the bags fell.”

But the jury was also told that a safety chain on the machine was broken, which would have restricted how far the jaws would close.

The apparatus had been replaced only days earlier by hire company Marwood Group Ltd because of worn rubber grips and a faulty safety chain. But the safety chain on the replacement machine broke again while the apparatus was being moved.

The inquest heard that a Marwood representative told a JN Bentley employee that the machine was OK to use with a broken chain as long as workmen kept a safe distance from it. However, Richard Lumley, depot manager for Marwood’s and responsible for the machinery’s safety inspection, denied that this would have happened.

He added that broken chains occurred commonly with that machine.

In the first day of the inquest, many of Mr Allen’s colleagues described their shock at watching him approach the scissor grab to remove the pallet.

David Akrigg, operating the vehicle, said: “I just could not believe he was doing it because it is a place nobody would go.”

Solicitor Mark Turner, representing JN Bentley, asked him: “Why would nobody go there?” To which Mr Akrigg replied: “Because it is too dangerous.”

The inquest continues.

Mother's inquest vigil for tragic son

The mother of Steven Allen took part in a vigil outside Bradford Coroner’s Court yesterday. Judith Allen was joined by family, friends and supporters of campaign group Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK) on the steps of the court complex. Hilda Palmer, of the campaign group, said: “We are here primarily to support Judith and her family but also to highlight the issue of the increasing number of deaths at work and particularly the huge number in the construction industry. “We want to make sure the reasons for these deaths are revealed and that, if anyone is found to be responsible, that they are held to account.”