A Northamptonshire recycling company and its two directors have been fined a total of £100,000 and ordered to pay £21,000 costs after being prosecuted for multiple safety failings.
In less than two years the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) served fifteen enforcement notices on the company and three on each of the two company directors. These covered a range of topics including work at height, work equipment and electrical matters.
An investigation by HSE found employees were instructed to carry out work at height even after a Prohibition Notice was served and staff felt pressurised to complete their work even when they had raised concerns about their safety. The investigation also found fork lift trucks were left with broken lights and windscreen wipers and emergency stop buttons on machinery were marked as broken but not repaired over a long period of time.
An oil storage company was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £17,000 after contractors cut into a sealed pipe causing a tank to explode. The pipe, which was attached to a vessel, was being used as part of a waste oil recovery process. Flammable gases within the pipe ignited, resulting in the lid of the tank detaching due to pressure build up.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the company was having difficulty with the waste oil recovery process which was foaming out of the vessel and filling its bund. Rather than dealing with the issue directly, a decision was taken to connect the vessel to an emergency relief dump tank to collect further foaming and this created a flammable atmosphere within the dump tank and connecting relief pipework.
Speaking after the hearing an HSE inspector said “Even though nobody was injured this incident could have been prevented if the work of the contractors had been controlled. The contractors were given a very basic induction and were not told about the process work being carried out and how it could impact on them. HSE has brought this prosecution because a failure took place that could have resulted in death or serious injury and we believe every person should be healthy and safe at work.”
A steel company was fined £930,000 and ordered to pay costs of £70,000 after the release, in June 2011, of toxic and flammable substances from its site on Humberside. The court heard that a large quantity of Benzole was released at an open site glass. The release resulted in a large flammable vapour cloud. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the company failed to take the appropriate safety measures to prevent the release of the toxic and flammable chemical. It was found the company failed to address the risks which had previously been identified and the incident could have been entirely avoided if the company addressed these concerns.