A crane hire company has been prosecuted after the hook broke off a tower crane and its four-tonne load crashed 36 metres to the ground, damaging a college building.
The crane was being used during construction work at Hertfordshire Regional College in Turnford, near Cheshunt, on 3 November 2007.
The load came down heavily beside part of the campus regularly used by students. The impact demolished the site boundary fence and damaged a college building.
London Tower Crane Hire & Sales Limited, the company which owned and operated the crane, admitted breaching health and safety laws at Hertford Magistrates' Court in a prosecution brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
The company, which has a head office at Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, was fined £18,000 and ordered to pay £15,837.45 in costs.
HSE inspector Norman Macritchie said: "It was a matter of good fortune that no-one was injured in this entirely avoidable incident.
"Those undertaking lifting operations have absolute duties to plan, supervise and carry them out safely. Maintenance staff had indentified safety-critical faults in the crane yet simple controls needed to prevent use of defective equipment were not implemented. Poor communication and teamwork, together with inadequate supervision, all contributed to this incident.
"This case has important lessons for all those operating lifting equipment and especially tower cranes."
London Tower Crane Hire & Sales Limited breached Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, Regulation 5(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and Regulation 8(1) of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998.