A firm admitted breaching health and safety legislation after the boss’ nephew was crushed to death at Northumberland quarry.
Father-of-two, Gary Ward was working for his uncle at Ward Bros Plant Hire Ltd, when a crushing machine fell on him and killed him.
The firm pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the safety of Mr Ward.
Mr Ward, 43, of Crook, County Durham, died when the machine slipped and fell on him at a quarry in Northumberland in 2009.
The accident led to a Health and Safety Executive investigation which uncovered that there had been a mechanical fault with the machine.
Mr Ward’s uncle, who ran Ward Bros Plant Hire Ltd, pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the health and safety of employees.
Judge John Milford QC said: “The underlying cause of this accident was that if Mr Ward appreciated the importance of isolating the machine, he would still be alive.
“He clearly did not because it had not been brought home to him by his employers or the operators.”
An inquest in Mr Ward’s death found that he had died of “traumatic asphyxiation” and that if an “isolator key” had been removed from the crusher he probably would still be alive.
Coroner Eric Armstrong said: “Realistically, if the key had been taken out, Gary Ward would probably have been with us today.
“The distinction is the difference between accident and misadventure. This is a large machine on a site being used daily and maintained by Gary Ward.
“There was no reason to think this was suddenly going to happen. There was no reason to think the machine would move by itself – but this one did.”
The jury, after more than 90 minutes’ deliberation, returned a verdict of death as a result of an accident.