Firm fined after employee suffers “terrible” injury in firing range incident

A multinational company has been fined £80,000 after a worker’s leg bone was shattered while test firing a gun on a range in Northumberland.

BAE Systems Global Combat Systems Munitions Limited admitted breaching health and safety legislation, which led to the employee suffering serious injuries.

The 46-year-old had been testing the weapon at the company’s firing range in Ridsdale on April 3rd, 2008.

Newcastle Crown Court heard last week that an aiming device, known as a boresight, had been left in the barrel of the medium-calibre firearm, when it should have been removed.

When the worker fired, a round smashed into the boresight, causing the gun to jam. When the employee turned the handle on the breech bolt holding the round, the bolt was propelled from the back of the weapon – by a build-up of gas – and into his left leg.

The man, from nearby Hexham, spent six weeks in hospital as a result of his injuries, which have left him with one leg shorter than the other.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found that BAE Systems, one of the world’s largest defence contractors, had failed to remove the boresight.

The company, which has headquarters in Farnborough, Hampshire, was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay an additional £100,000 in costs.

Speaking after sentencing, HSE Inspector Philip Smith said: “This is a highly specialised global company whose safety standards should be industry-leading. There were recognised preventative measures that should have been employed to make sure this kind of serious incident could not happen. As a result of their safety failure, a worker suffered a terrible injury.

“BAE Systems Global Combat Systems Munitions Limited was fully aware of the dangers of not removing a boresight before firing and had fitted interlocks onto their other guns to prevent this type of incident from occurring.  However, the company neglected – for whatever reason – to make sure a similar guarding mechanism was in place with this weapon.”

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