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Waste recycling company fined after worker scalded

Written by Phoenix Health & Safety
7th July 2017

A waste company has been sentenced today after one of its workers received severe burns to his upper body and face.

SUEZ Recycling and Recovery Tees Valley Ltd operates the site at Haverton Hill, Stockton-On-Tees. It processes waste and turns it into energy by burning it. Teesside Crown Court heard how the worker was injured on 17 October 2014 when he was seriously scalded by hot ash and water at the Stockton-on-Tees site of SUEZ. Following a blockage on one of its lines the injured person opened two hatches on a chute which takes the burnt waste away. He used a metal pole to dislodge the blockage. In doing so the waste dropped into a pit filled with water and a plume of hot ash and steam erupted from the hatches causing severe burns to his upper body and face as he turned to escape.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company failed to adequately consider the risk that workers were exposed to during this task. This meant the system of work they had wasn’t sufficient to stop the incident happening. It was also found the company failed to implement appropriate systems to manage and supervise this workplace activity. This meant the limited measures they had put in place were not followed. SUEZ Recycling and Recovery Tees Valley Ltd of SUEZ House Maidenhead Berkshire pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The company has today been fined £220,000 and ordered to pay costs of £12,695.65. 

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Victoria Wise said:

“Problems often occur in production and it is essential that companies recognise and understand them to prevent them happening or introduce engineering controls and systems of work that prevent people being injured".

Phoenix comments: 

The court heard a similar incident had occurred eight months before Mr Allison’s accident, on the 7th February 2014 whereby two men tried to remove a blockage with a rod and a sledgehammer. Such actions led to similar consequences, as material dropped down the chute, steam and debris was blown from the open hatch resulting in injuries for both men. The organisation undertook a safety review and made various recommendations, however these controls were not fully implemented or enforced. A large percentage of accidents occur due to lack of or failure in systems of work. The law, requires employers to provide systems of work that are planned, organised, performed, maintained and revised as appropriate so as to be, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risk to health. Safe systems of work are required where hazards cannot be eliminated and some risk still exists. Therefore, there is a great reliance on implementing and enforcing safe operating procedure due to the potential risk of human error. This incident was entirely foreseeable and preventable.