A worker could have been killed when a 400 kg bale struck him as it toppled from a forklift truck, a court has heard.
The 26-year-old man suffered a fractured spine following the incident at Preston Plastics Ltd on Lancaster Road, Out Rawcliffe, near Garstang.
The metre-high cube of recycled plastic was being moved when the incident happened on August 18, 2011.
The company was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £4,533 in prosecution costs by Preston magistrates after it was taken to court by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Rohan Lye said: “The employee at Preston Plastics was badly injured when he was struck by the 400 kg bale, but his injuries could easily have been fatal.
“The firm had a legal duty to make sure the work was properly planned, supervised and carried out safely but it failed to do any of this.
“What’s worse is that the forklift truck was regularly used to lift two bales at once, making it almost inevitable that someone would be injured.”
The court was told the driver of the forklift had lifted up two bales from a stack in the warehouse by clamping hold of the bottom bale, with the other one resting on top.
As he moved the bales, the top one toppled from the forklift and struck the worker, who was sweeping up bits of plastic.
He was thrown to the ground as it hit his hands and head, and suffered a fracture to his spine which required him to wear a back brace while it healed.
The waste and recycling sector is one of the most dangerous industries in Britain, with a death rate 16 times the national average.
Figures show 10 workers lost their lives in the industry in 2012/13.
Working practices have changed
HSE guidance advises against using forklift trucks to lift two heavy items, with one resting on top of the other.
Preston Plastics has now changed its working practices so the forklift truck is now only used to lift one bale at a time.
Mr Lye said: “If that procedure had been in place at the time of the incident, then the worker’s injuries could have been avoided.”
Preston Plastics where unavailable for comment.