Waste company's lax procedures led to fatal accident

Waste management business Caird Environmental has been fined £50,000 after an explosion in a drum crushing machine caused the death of an employee.

The fatality occurred at a waste transfer station at Caird's Minworth site in Warwickshire last July. Drums which were supposed to be empty were being crushed prior to landfilling. One 45-gallon drum, containing an unknown quantity of paint wastes, released flammable gas which ignited and engulfed an operator, burning him to death.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found that the drum also contained a smaller drum of chromic acid. This is a powerful oxidizing agent which reacted with the other wastes during the crushing operation, producing the flammable vapour.

Birmingham Crown Court heard that the company had a written system of work which was not being instituted due, in part, to commercial expediency. Safety procedures to check that drums were empty were not followed. The HSE failed to discover how the chromic acid drum came to be inside the larger container.

Caird pleaded guilty to a charge under section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 of failing to take all reasonably practicable steps to protect its employees. The firm was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,800.

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