Thomas Bolton, a Staffordshire-based firm that specialises in manufacturing copper products, has received a fine of almost £30,000 following an event in which a worker suffered serious injuries to his skull.
An anonymous 63-year-old employee at the Stoke-on-Trent business sustained life-changing injuries when a metal peg weighing two kilograms fell from a height of 26 metres and landed on his head.
Following an investigation into the accident by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), it was found that the peg had been attached to an overhead crane via a fabric sling to secure some bolts. The sling catapulted the peg on to the ceiling and back towards the factory floor.
After being hit, the employee was taken to hospital, but despite being discharged the same day, he has suffered significantly and been unable to work since.
HSE inspector Rachel Bradshaw believes the worker is lucky to be alive, saying, "It was only a matter of luck that the employee, or indeed anyone else in the vicinity, was not killed by the projectile."
The HSE discovered the firm had failed to conduct a risk assessment for the task that was being carried out at the time of the accident and had not been using appropriate equipment.
A crane had been used to tighten bolts by the firm for several years, but Ms Bradshaw said it should have updated the methods it employed to ensure they met current safety regulations.
Earlier this week, Staffordshire Magistrates' Court fined Thomas Bolton £19,050 after it pleaded guilty to breaching the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
In addition to this, the firm was ordered to pay £10,361 in legal costs.
Thomas Bolton has since updated the way it carries out the tightening task and now uses a specially designed spanner, but Ms Bradshaw said, "It is a shame that a man had to suffer painful, life-changing injuries before it made that change."
By Francesca Witney