It’s no wonder that the waste industry is spotlighted as an HSE target when you see cases such as this on the HSE website. 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, a court has heard.
What does not help is the site management relied on health and safety managers it employed for advice but failed to check if they were competent and had appropriate qualifications. Given that waste sites have many risks including the potential for fires and explosions then they should have been taking advice from suitably competent persons. This site also had asbestos and the health & safety advisors should have been able to advise on the management of asbestos.
The site run by Mekatek Ltd was subject to a routine inspection by HSE inspectors in 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.
Mekatek Ltd was prosecuted by HSE at a hearing before Swansea Crown Court and the court was told the site had a catalogue of dangerous points. These included:
• Unsafe working at height;
• A lack of guarding to dangerous moving parts;
• Electrocution risks;
• Poorly managed asbestos wastes – which continued despite earlier warning of asbestos and recommendations for its urgent removal.
Mekatek Ltd of 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 later commented that the conditions at the site were extremely poor and the dangers were quite clear. It’s very fortunate no-one was killed or seriously injured there. The lives of the 34 workers at the site and any visitors depended on the company meeting its legal health and safety obligations fully.
What price should a company put on ensuring it has competent health & safety advice! In this case it would appear clear that if the site management had employed competent health & safety advisors then the costs would have been far lower than those imposed by the courts.