A Staffordshire company that makes copper products for the power industry has been fined more than £19,000 by Stafford magistrates after a worker suffered life-changing injuries when he was hit on the head by a metal peg.
The 2kg peg was attached to a 10 tonne overhead crane and fabric sling that was being used to apply torque to bolts being tightened on an extrusion press at Thomas Bolton Ltd in Froghall, Stoke on Trent, on August 30 2012.
Stafford Magistrates Court heard the peg was catapulted out of the sling, through the factory roof and back down into the factory some 26 metres away, hitting an employee on the head.
The 63-year-old man, from Cheadle, who has asked not to be named, was admitted to hospital and although discharged the same day, has not been able to return to work.
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found Thomas Bolton Ltd had not carried out a suitable risk assessment of the task being undertaken and did not properly plan the work or use appropriate equipment.
Thomas Bolton Ltd, of Froghall, Stoke-on-Trent, was fined a total of £19, 050 and ordered to pay £10,361 in costs after pleading guilty to single breaches of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Rachel Bradshaw said: "This was a serious incident that could have resulted in a fatality. It was only a matter of luck that the employee, or indeed anyone else in the vicinity, was not killed by the projectile.
"Maintenance activities such as this should be properly planned using the right tools for the job. Thomas Bolton had carried out this activity in this way for many years, using the crane to tighten the bolts, but just because a job is carried out in a certain way for a long time without incident doesn't make it a safe system of work.
"The company now uses a purpose-designed spanner for the job but it is a shame that a man had to suffer painful, life-changing, long-term injuries before they made that change."