Thomas Bolton Ltd, a company making copper products for the power industry, has been fined £19,050 and ordered to pay £10,361 in costs after pleading guilty to breaches of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations SI 1999/3242, the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Provision and use of Work Equipment Regulations SI 1998/2306.

The prosecution was made after a worker suffered life-changing injuries after a metal peg hit him in the head. The peg, weighing two kilogrammes, was attached to a ten tonne overhead crane and fabric sling being used to apply torque to bolts being tightened on an extrusion press. The peg was then catapulted out of the sling, it went through the factory roof, and re-entered the factory 26 metres away, hitting the employee on the head.

A subsequent Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that a suitable risk assessment of the task had not been carried out and the company did not properly plan the work or use the appropriate equipment.

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.”