A firefighter lost his temper and fractured a colleague's skull with a Winnie the Pooh mug during an argument over who should answer the phone.
Michael Mole left Peter Talbot with lasting psychological injuries from the assault at Cradley Heath station, West Midlands, in September 2000.
Yesterday the 43-year-old avoided prison when he was sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court for causing grievous bodily harm. He was ordered to do the maximum community service term of 240 hours andpay £2,000 compensation and £1,000 costs.
Recorder Peter Andrews QC, said he had decided not to jail Mole for several reasons, including the firefighter's "positive" good character.
He said Mr Talbot's life had been devastated by the injury, which caused serious physical and psychological damage and ended his fire service career.
Mole, of Tividale, Warley, West Midlands, was found guilty of the assault last month.
Graham Henson, for the defence, said the offence was a piece of tomfoolery that had turned sour in the space of a second or two. He said Mole would certainly be sacked if the court decided to jail him.
The judge said he accepted the incident was "wholly out of character".Reuse content