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5th March 2015

Routine HSE Inspection Leads to £55,000 Fine for Multiple Failings

A waste and recycling site in Carmarthen was in such a dangerous condition that visiting health and safety inspectors had to issue eight notices to immediately halt a range of work activities, Swansea Crown Court heard on 27 February.

The site was subject to a routine inspection by HSE inspectors on 20 May 2013 when a number of serious safety issues were discovered, including access to unguarded dangerous machinery, exposure to risk of electrocution and areas contaminated by asbestos containing materials.

The court was told the site had a catalogue of dangerous points, including:

  • A “man basket” on a forklift truck to allow workers to carry out work at height. This basket was not secured to the forks of the truck and there was no cage behind the basket to stop workers becoming trapped with the fork lift truck mast.
  • There were no suitable guards to prevent workers getting caught in the moving machine parts of a granulator, two compactors, a shredder and a paint mixing drum.
  • Electrical cables were found trailing through liquid, leading to a risk of electrocution.
  • Exposed and damaged pipe lagging, which included asbestos containing materials, was in a poor state and exposed workers at the site to the risk of contamination. This was allowed to continue by the company despite an earlier report by a specialist that had identified the presence of asbestos in the area and recommended its urgent removal.

Mekatek Ltd of Terminus Road, Sheffield, pleaded guilty to a breach of health and safety regulations, a single breach of control of asbestos regulations and a breach of work equipment regulations and was fined a total of £35,000 and ordered to pay £20,000 in costs.

The HSE inspector involved in the case, speaking after the hearing, said: “The conditions at this site were extremely poor and the dangers were quite clear. It’s very fortunate no-one was killed or seriously injured there.

“Mekatek failed to manage basic health and safety at the site and these multiple failings confirm its approach was totally inadequate. The issues identified, such as cables trailing through liquid and management of asbestos should have been immediately obvious.

“The management also relied on health and safety managers it employed for advice but failed to check if they were competent and had appropriate qualifications, particularly for the management of asbestos.

“Twenty tradespeople, on average, die from asbestos related diseases in Britain every week and it’s the biggest single cause of work related deaths in the country.

“The lives of the 34 workers at the site and any visitors depended on the company meeting its legal health and safety obligations fully.”

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