Waste recycling firm fined over employee’s incinerator burns
The firm has been made to pay £230 000 after a worker was burned at its waste-to-energy generation plant in Stoke-on-Tees.
Teesside Crown Court was told that a mattress spring had blocked a chute used to take burnt waste away from the incinerator. During the night shift on 17th October 2014, the worker opened two hatches on the chute and used a small metal pole to dislodge the obstruction.
The coil and backed-up ash dropped into a water-filled pit used to cool debris and caused a plume of hot ash and steam to erupt from the two open hatches.
The man sustained serious burns to his back, arms, legs, face and ears. He spent 11 days in hospital.
The HSE investigation found the waste recycling firm’s system of work for the task was insufficient.
It added that the “limited measures” the company had put in place were not followed because of inadequate appropriate management and supervision.
The firm pleaded guilty to a breach of s 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. It was fined £220 000 and ordered to pay costs of £12 695.
The shackles will be off with Brexit
We’ve heard that some commentators are predicting that when Brexit takes effect and legislation is re-drafted, many health and safety duties will disappear. Some have even predicted the HSE will be scrapped and a light-touch approach to enforcement adopted.
Don’t believe a word of it. Even if legal duties are updated there’s almost no chance of duties being significantly downgraded. The safest option is to assume that it will be at least as strict as it is now.
The HSE’s plans for the year
This year, there will be at least 20 000 proactive inspections, half of which will be linked to major campaigns. This will be associated with the existing Helping Great Britain Work Well programme. Meaning that much of the focus will be on managing health risks. Preventing musculoskeletal injuries and managing manual handling risks are expected to feature prominently in these campaigns.
The prime targets for inspectors will be construction refurbishment; agriculture; metal, food and wood manufacturing; and the waste and recycling sectors. However, this doesn’t rule out visits to other businesses—especially if there have been complaints made or accidents reported.
Another key area is asbestos removal. Here inspectors will be checking that contractor and client arrangements are in line with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.
The HSE is to look at “blue tape”. This is where excessive or disproportionate burdens have been placed on others. This should be particularly good news for smaller companies who have to deal with the demands of large companies who believe that their supply chain must manage risks in the same way they do.