The 57-year-old welder was working on a shaft bracket casting at Bonds Foundry’s former Tow Law site when the support foot gave way and the 2.5-tonne piece of steel came crashing down onto his leg in November 2014.
Durham Crown Court heard yesterday that the man, an experienced welder who joined the firm in 2008, spent three weeks in hospital following the accident.
James Puzey, prosecuting, described how the man had required a skin graft and intense physiotherapy, and had to move into a bungalow.
In 2016, Bonds denied failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees while working upon the shaft bracket castings. The charge, brought by the Health and Safety Executive, alleged the company had failed to provide suitable and sufficient risk assessment for such work, along with failing to provide a safe system of work, adequate training and supervision for employees engaged in this task.
However, this month, bosses entered a guilty plea to a new charge, namely “failing to have in place a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which employees were exposed when working on shaft bracket castings without the appropriate use of lifting equipment to support the bracket during this work.”
The court heard that while there were risk assessments in place for the processes carried out at the foundry, there was no risk assessment in writing stating the need to use cranes at all times when working on shaft bracket castings.
“This left the potential for gaps,” said Mr Puzey. “The fact is the [injured man] was unclear about the use of cranes and the responsibility lies with Bonds.”
Dominic Kay QC, mitigating, said the system of operation used by workers was put into writing immediately after the accident.
He emphasised Bonds’ unblemished health and safety record before the incident and the training and regular safety checks carried out. He said the bosses were devastated about what had happened and had supported the man following the accident.
“This is absolutely not a case of a business that turns a blind eye to health and safety,” said Mr Kay. “It is a decent company. It is a company that made a mistake not putting something into writing.”
Bonds Foundry is known for making pump casings and valves for the offshore industry. A prolonged downturn in the sector resulted in the company making a loss in 2016 and 2017. It has since closed its Tow Law site and reduced its workforce to 80 employees, based at Crook.
Recorder Ian Atherton fined Bonds £21,000 and awarded prosecution costs of £23,000.