A BLACK Country firm described as prioritising production over the safety of employees has been fined just £1,500 after a Lower Gornal man was crushed to death.

David Hunt, 49, of Park Road, died after sustaining neck and back injuries when hooks holding up a heavy metal beam disengaged while he was working at Ark Install Galvanising in Dudley Road West, Tividale.

Judge Michael Dudley said it was clear the firm, which went into liquidation in 2008, had failed to learn lessons from earlier incidents which showed the seriousness of their failure to put into operation a safer working system.

Speaking at Wolverhampton Crown Court, he ruled he could not impose a fine that was impossible for the defendants to meet adding, "I am driven to award a nominal penalty but, had this been a thriving company, the position would have been very different."

The firm whose registered office is in Birmingham admitted breaching their duty towards an employee at work and also contravening Health and Safety regulations.

James Puzey prosecuting said Mr Hunt, who had been married to his wife Diane for 20 years, was moving the load along the shop floor using a crane when the hooks failed.

This caused the beam to disengage, falling onto Mr Hunt who had been employed by the firm for two decades, having followed his father into the business.

Colleagues rushed to help but they could not lift the beam because it was too heavy and had to use a crane to free Mr Hunt, before he was rushed to Russells Hall Hospital where he died from his crushing injuries.

Mr Puzey added: "The failure to provide a safe working environment and a breach of duty resulted in the death of Mr Hunt."

And stressed: "It is important the message goes out that this level of culpability will be punished by the courts with financial sanctions."

Bernard Thorogood defending the company, which was no longer trading and had no assets, said it was a "traditional" firm and the impact of Mr Hunt's death had been felt from "the top to the bottom."