WEEE recycler Ereco EMEA and dust extraction systems business Paramount Waste Extraction have been fined in a case brought over an explosion at Ereco’s Lingfield, Surrey site in 2011.
Ereco EMEA Corporation Ltd had pleaded guilty to two charges concerning the incident and Paramount Waste Extraction Ltd pleaded guilty to one charge.
Details of the sentencing hearing, which took place in November 2017, have been released by the Health and Safety Executive. It noted that at the hearing at Portsmouth Crown Court, the court heard how a “massive explosion occurred at Ereco EMEA Corporation Ltd site on 3 October 2011 at Hobbs Industrial Estate, Lingfield, Surrey, following the storage of print toner on site.”
Eight people were injured as a result of the explosion, five seriously. A 30-year-old worker was placed in an induced coma and remained in hospital for 15 weeks. (see letsrecycle.com story)
Safe system of work
HSE noted that joint investigation with the Surrey Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) found that Ereco failed to ensure there was a safe system of work in place to reduce the risk of dangerous substances and this could have been completed through carrying out suitable fire risks assessments and following guidelines in Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002.
The investigation, explained the HSE, also found that Paramount Waste Extraction Ltd, the company which designed the machinery that was used to shred and process the toner cartridges, “did not consider the likely misuse of the machine by overloading the processing of toner with more than a residual amount of toner powder left inside; it was found they relied on generic data to determine whether an explosive atmosphere may arise”.
HSE noted that Ereco EMEA Corporation Ltd of Lewes Road, Forest Row, East Sussex pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company also pleaded guilty to an offence under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 of failing to take general fire precautions.
While the sentencing hearing took place at Portsmouth Crown Court in December, sentence was handed down last month (February 2017). Ereco EMEA Corporation Ltd was fined £30,000, £15,000 for each offence. The firm was also ordered to pay costs of £30,000.
Paramount Waste Extraction Ltd which is based in Camberley, Surrey and has its registered office at Redehall Road, Smallfield, Surrey pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The company has been fined £16,000 as well as being ordered to pay £16,000 towards court costs.
“Both designers and suppliers must ensure that the risks of using their equipment are eliminated through safe design”
Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Michelle Canning said: “All the employees involved in this incident are extremely lucky this explosion didn’t prove fatal.
“Ereco failed to take the required precautions before starting a process of work with dangerous substances and this failure resulted in this serious, life threatening explosion.
“Both designers and suppliers must ensure that the risks of using their equipment are eliminated through safe design, and this should include taking into account foreseeable misuse.”
Following the sentencing, Denise Turner-Stewart, Surrey county council’s cabinet member for communities, spoke of how the Surrey Fire and Rescue Service works with employers to help them comply with fire safety laws but “won’t hesitate to take enforcement and legal action”.
When contacted by letsrecycle.com, Ereco said it did not wish to comment on the case. Alexander Phillips, one of the directors of Paramount Waste Extraction, also said he did not wish to comment on the matter.