A MAN has sparked a major rescue operation after falling into an industrial cement mixer in a bizarre workplace accident at a remote site.

Concerns mounted for the trapped workman as at least ten firefighters, four crews from North East Ambulance Service's hazardous area response team and a double-crewed ambulance worked to free him from a mixing drum on a site at Hamsteels Lane, near Lanchester.

County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service said it was alerted to the stricken man at Micromix RM, on the rural lane at 11.47am after paramedics had arrived to find the worker unable to free himself and was suffering from cold in the near freezing temperature.

Photos released by the fire service showed colleagues from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service having set up a secure platform for rescuers, who used a circular power saw to cut into the mixing drum on an Express Minimix vehicle.

About two hours after firefighters began the operation, the worker emerged from the drum on a stretcher and was taken to University Hospital of North Durham by ambulance.

A spokesman for the service said on Monday night there was no update on the man's condition.

He added: “The man had been cleaning the inside of the empty cement mixer when he slipped and fell, injuring his leg. 

“He had fallen on his leg and under his own weight had been unable to get out.

“We sent one crew from Consett and we had two officers there in support. We also had help from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service and the North East Ambulance Service."

Express Minimix, which has been involved in numerous high-profile projects across the North, including the Wharton Park upgrade, in Durham, and sinkholes in Newcastle, states on its website that it took "health and safety very seriously".