June 12, 2017

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£220k fine after recycling worker seriously burned

SUEZ Recycling and Recovery has been fined £220,000 after a worker was injured at its Billingham energy from waste site.

Teesside Crown Court heard Leonard Allison was injured when hot ash and steam erupted through a chute.

According to reports, Mr Allison was attempting to remove a blockage in a chute with a poll when the blockage fell into a “quench” pit of water, forcing a plume of hot water, ash and steam to erupt through the open chute.

Mr Allison suffered serious burns to his back, arms, legs, face and ears and remained in hospital for 11 days.

The court was told that a similar incident had occurred eight months before Mr Allison’s accident, where two men were injured, but not as seriously as Mr Allison.

After the first incident, a safety review was undertaken and various recommendations made, but not all were fully implemented.

Prosecutor Craig Hassall said: “Some changes were made but were not, the prosecution would say, effective changes because they were not implemented on the ground.”

Barrister Stuart Denney QC said SUEZ wanted to apologise publicly for the incident, and for the injuries sustained by Mr Allison, who remains employed. He said a separate civil action had been settled so there was no need for any compensation award.

“In carrying out a full reassessment and coming up with a series of measures, the company has indicated it is making a real effort to fulfil its obligations – and a not altogether bad effort,” he said, adding it was a “fairly decent effort in designing a system – we just weren’t good enough in making sure everyone followed it.”

He said since the incident new systems had been introduced to ensure all staff know how to properly deal with such incidents and to wear the appropriate safety clothing.

Obvious risk

SUEZ admitted the single breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 when the case first appeared before the court on 10 January.

Judge Deborah Sherwin acknowledged the firm had a good safety record, but said: “It seems to me there were breaches that had existed over a number of years prior to February 2014 and afterwards.

“The risk of an accident such as this was an obvious risk.”

The firm was “on the cusp of medium to high culpability,” she said, but added: “It’s apparent that the company has given a lot of thought to this accident and got in place a lot of different measures to try and ensure something like this would never happen again.”

Costs of £12,695.65 were awarded, as well as the £220,000 fine.

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