Defence Firm Prosecuted Over Firing Range Injury

HSE Acts After Worker Breaks Leg In Shooting Tests

23.09.2014

A major defence contractor and manufacturer has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) over an incident at a shooting range in 2008 that left a man with life-changing injuries.

BAE Systems Global Combat Systems Munitions came under investigation after a 46-year-old worker at the company's Ridsdale range suffered a shattered bone in his leg, caused by a seven kg metal bolt flying out of the back of a gun and impaling itself in his left leg.

The man spent six weeks in hospital and his left leg is now 20 mm shorter than his right.

An HSE investigation found that an aiming device known as a boresight had been left in the barrel of the weapon when it should have been removed. This meant that when the employee fired the gun, the bullet hit the device, jamming the round at the end of the barrel and blocking it. As the employee tried to free the round by turning the breech bolt, the trapped gas inside ejected the bolt at great speed, striking his leg.

The HSE established that the hazards of not removing a boresight from the barrel ahead of firing were known about, meaning the company was at fault for not ensuring this had been done.

BAE Systems pleaded guilty in the hearing at Newcastle Crown Court to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined £80,000 with costs of £100,000.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Philip Smith said that as a major global company that makes specialised equipment, BAE Systems should demonstrate "industry leading" safety standards - but had clearly not done so, with serious consequences.

He added: "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."

Expert Opinion
This shocking incident highlights the life-changing effects accidents at work can have on those involved. In this case, a man suffered serious injuries to his leg, which have impacted his day-to-day life, as a result of health and safety failings on the part of his employer. Unfortunately, this is the latest in a long line of incidents that have left employers suffering serious, life-changing injuries, as a result of the failings of employers.

“The fact that the company was aware of the dangers posed to workers and had taken action to prevent incidents of this nature involving other firearms means that this accident was entirely preventable. We hope that this successful prosecution highlights to employers their duty to implement safety measures, where required, to protect the health and safety of workers."
Stephen Nye, Partner