SUEZ fined £220k after worker suffers incinerator burns

Waste firm SUEZ Recycling and Recovery has been made to pay over £230,000 after a worker at its Billingham incinerator was burned by escaping ash and steam.

Teesside Crown Court heard yesterday (7 June) that during the night shift of 17 October 2014 Leonard Allison attempted to use a pole to remove a blockage caused by coiled mattress wire in a chute that was causing ash to back up.

The wire was dislodged and fell into a pit of water that is used to cool debris, The court heard that this caused hot water, ash and steam to ‘erupt’ through the open shute.

SUEZ fined £220k after worker suffers incinerator burnsAlthough Allison tried to dodge the oncoming debris, he suffered serious burns to his back, arms, legs, face and ears and was in the Royal Victoria Infirmary’s special burns unit for 11 days.

Allison is still employed by SUEZ and has settled a civil action with the company.

The court heard that a similar accident had occurred eight months earlier, in February 2014. On that occasion, two men had used a rod and a sledgehammer to remove a blockage. Steam and ash was again blown through the open hatch, injuring both men.

Following that incident, a safety review made a number of recommendations, but the court heard that not all of them were fully implemented.

Prosecutor Craig Hassall said: “Some changes were made but were not, the prosecution would say, effective changes because they were not implemented on the ground.”

SUEZ admitted a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 in January. During her judgement, Judge Deborah Sherwin said: “I’m satisfied this is a company that takes health and safety seriously… [but] it seems to me there were breaches that had existed over a number of years prior to February 2014 and afterwards. The risk of an accident such as this was an obvious risk.

“It’s apparent that the company has given a lot of thought to this accident and got in place a lot of different measures to try and ensure something like this would never happen again.”

The firm was fined £220,000 and made to pay costs of £12,695.

Barrister Stuart Denney QC, representing SUEZ, said: “In carrying out a full reassessment and coming up with a series of measures, the company has indicated it is making a real effort to fulfil its obligations.”

He said that the firm had made a “fairly decent effort in designing a system” but that it hadn’t been “good enough in making sure everyone followed it.”

SUEZ fined £220k after worker suffers incinerator burns
The Duke of Kent was shown round the incinerator a week before the incident
The Billingham incinerator was officially opened on 8 October 2014, just over a week before the incident. Built by a partnership of the SUEZ (then SITA UK), Lend Lease Infrastructure (EMEA) Ltd, and I-Environment Investments Ltd (ITOCHU Corporation), the facility forms part of the consortium’s 25-year waste management contract with the South Tyne & Wear Waste Management Partnership (STWWMP), which comprises Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland councils.

The two-line plant, operated by around 40 full-time staff, can process up to 256,000-tonnes of residual waste per annum, of which, 190,000 tonnes comes from the STWWMP.

Related Articles