A BAE Systems munitions subsidiary has been prosecuted after a bone in an employee’s leg was shattered as he test fired a gun.
BAE Systems Global Combat Systems Munitions Limited was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £100,000 after admitting it breached the Health and Safety at Work Act.
Newcastle Crown Court heard the horrifying accident at work happened when the 46-year-old test fired the gun on a range in Northumberland in April 2008.
Bolt shot out
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), prosecuting, said a 7kg metal bolt had shot out of the back of the gun and hit the man’s left leg.
As a result the worker, who lives in Hexham, Northumberland, was hospitalised for six weeks and has been left with his left leg 2cm shorter than the right.
The HSE told the court that an aiming device, known as a boresight, should have been removed from the gun before it was fired but had been left in the barrel.
As a result, gas was trapped in the barrel and when the pressure built up the breech bolt was ejected out of the back of the gun with great force.
‘Safety should have been industry-leading’
The court heard an HSE investigation had found that while the subsidiary had interlocked other weapons to prevent such accidents it had not done so with the medium-calibre gun being tested in this case.
Following the court case Philip Smith, an HSE inspector, said the safety standards employed by the global company should have been second to none.
He said although Hampshire-based BAE Systems Global Combat Systems Munitions Limited was aware of the dangers posed by failing to remove boresights from guns before firing them they had not ensured a guarding mechanism was in place.
He said the incident highlighted the need for protective measures to be implemented on all work equipment to prevent accidents.
Accident Advice Helpline can help people who have been injured at work make claims for compensation.