Firm fined after three employees overcome by fumes

A food waste disposal and recycling firm has been fined £250,000 after three employees were overcome by toxic gases, including hydrogen sulphide, and a reduced oxygen atmosphere in an animal waste facility in Stoke-on-Trent.

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Prosecuting, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) told Stafford Crown Court that, on 23 April 2014, an employee of John Pointon and Sons Limited accessed a compartment within an animal waste trailer to free animal waste and was overcome by the gases.

Subsequently, two further employees entered the waste compartment and were also overcome by the gases.

The court heard that this preventable incident could have resulted in fatalities and that the company had been prosecuted twice before for two fatal incidents which involved confined space entry within a processing plant.

John Pointon and Sons Limited, of Bones Lane, Cheddleton, Stoke-on-Trent, was fined £250,000 with costs of £37,362 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, Regulation 3(1)(a) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and Regulation 5(1) of the Confined Spaces Regulations 1997

Phoenix comment “Working in confined spaces is a known risk, and there is no excuse for not implementing suitable control measures. Work in restricted areas with potential dangerous gases should be rigorously assessed and controlled by competent people”.