A waste and recycling company was fined £450,000 after a stack of baled waste collapsed, seriously injuring a worker. The man sustained serious head and brain injuries, including a fractured eye socket, back and skull.
Leicester Crown Court heard how a 41-year-old employee of Veolia ES (UK) Limited of London, was sweeping up around the base of stacks of baled waste at their site in Castle Donington, when a stack collapsed on him.
An investigation by the HSE into the incident, which occurred in November 2013, found that the company did not identify the risks of inconsistent stacking and de-stacking of baled waste, or the simple controls to manage it. Ourselves having experience of the industry, it seems strange that such risks could have been overlooked.
Failure to do so has cost Veolia ES (UK) Limited, of Pentonville Road, London, a fine of £450,000, with costs of £11,676 after they pleaded guilty to an offence under Regulation 10(4) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.
After the case, the HSE inspector commented that Veolia relied upon a flawed and inadequate generic risk assessment. They even failed to implement the few inadequate controls they had listed.
It transpires that as a consequence, workers were exposed (over a number of years) to the risk of being struck by falling bales of waste. Unfortunately for one worker, he was hit by falling bales, causing life changing injuries that have had serious long term effects.
The HSE has warned that this prosecution should send a clear message to large organisations that exposing workers to foreseeable risks over a sustained period of time will not be tolerated.
It would be interesting to see if this case had come to court after the 1st February 2016 – under the new sentencing criteria, this already large fine would likely have been 5-10 times higher, which should really make any business sit up and take notice.