AN AIRCRAFT worker was seriously hurt when he fell two metres from a wing jig at the Airbus UK Ltd site at Broughton near Chester.
The company, which employs 6,000 people at the site in the manufacture of wings for the Airbus family, admitted a health and safety charge yesterday and ended up with a court bill of £21,000.
The company was fined £18,000 and was ordered to pay costs of £3,041 at Flintshire magistrates' court after the accident in February.
While work on installing safety harnesses had previously been started, unfortunately it was not speedy enough and had not been completed until after the accident.
But chairman Carol Sorahan said the bench was pleased it had been completed since.
She said it was felt that any compensation they could impose would not be sufficient so the issue was best left to the civil courts to deal with a personal injury claim.
Employee Mark Owen Wilson, 32, who lives on the Woodchurch Estate at Birkenhead, fell in a crouched position while removing the second tier jig floors ready for the removal of the wing by crane from the jig.
Prosecutor Barbara Francis told how Mr Wilson was still off sick after he suffered a burst vertebrae in his spine in the fall onto a concrete floor.
He had fallen backwards and was in hospital for four weeks. There had been further complications and he was still in pain.
The company admitted that it failed to discharge its duty to ensure the safety of Mr Wilson while carrying out wing removal from the A320 jig at the factory.
The company, said to operate one of the biggest, if not the biggest, manufacturing site in the UK, had known of the danger of falling from the jig while the floors were being removed ready for the wing to be lifted out, said Mrs Francis.
It was not a safe system of work and the issue for safety harnesses had been raised in the local safety committee back in 1998 and again in a risk assessment in 2000.
The level of risk was high, she said, and it was not until after the accident safety lines and harnesses were provided on the jig.
The court heard that some of the jigs had different designs where gates providing protection at the edge of working areas did not have to be lifted in advance of wing removal, or where they remained part of the floor working area.
Iain Moore, defending, said that the company took health and safety issues extremely seriously and it was a remarkable record that a complex site of such a magnitude had no previous convictions whatsoever.
It was accepted that the issue of falls had been identified as a risk and a four year following programme of providing safety harnesses costing £1 million had been started four years ago.
It had given priority to providing them at higher working levels first and at the time of the accident the programme was 80 per cent complete and £800,000 had been spent.
Magistrates heard that in 2002 the company made a £40 million profit, a loss of £168 million in 2001 and a £11 million profit in the year 2000.