12 January 2011

Man dies following explosion at Sterecycle autoclave site

A man airlifted to hospital has died as a result of injuries suffered in an “industrial explosion” at autoclave specialist Sterecycle's waste treatment facility in Rotherham yesterday (January 11).

The 42-year-old was one of two employees who were badly injured in the incident at the site on Sheffield Road. The other, a 50-year-old man from Barnsley, is being treated at the Northern General Hospital for what South Yorkshire police described as “serious, potentially life-changing, head and body injuries.”

Sterecycle uses steam and pressure to break down waste

Sterecycle uses steam and pressure to break down waste

The police said they received a call about a possible explosion at the facility at the site of the former British Steel Works on Sheffield Road at around 2.40pm.

Sterecycle secured £10 million in funding in February 2010 in order to double the capacity of the Rotherham facility from 100,000 tonnes-a-year to 200,000 tonnes. The investment is intended as part of a three-year, £200 million programme of development (see letsrecycle.com story).

A statement released by South Yorkshire Police said: “We had a call come in about 2.40pm of a possible explosion at Sterecycle recycling business on Sheffield Road in Rotherham. It appears that a pressure valve has exploded and two people are described as ‘badly injured'.”

Last night, the police revealed that one of the men had died.

A statement said: “The 42-year-old Rotherham man airlifted to Leeds General Hospital this afternoon has now died as a result of the injuries he suffered in the industrial explosion at Sterecycle on Sheffield Road.”

“Regret”

Autoclaves use a combination of steam and pressure to break down the organic content of waste.

Sterecycle said in a statement that there had been a “sudden loss of pressure as a result of the failure of one of the pressure vessels used in the waste treatment process”.

The company explained there was some damage to the side of the building housing the pressure vessels and that the adjoining road, Sheffield Road, has been closed temporarily.

It added that it had initiated its emergency procedures immediately and medical attention was provided as “quickly as possible”.

Operations at the plant have been suspended and will remain so until a full investigation into the cause of the incident has been carried out.

Commenting immediately after the incident, Tom Shields, chief executive of Sterecycle, said: “We clearly regret this incident and have advised the Health and Safety Executive. Our immediate priority is for the welfare of our employees who have been injured. Thereafter we will urgently investigate the causes of the incident and ensure that all necessary actions are taken.”

The incident comes one month after Sterecycle identified a potential gap in the market for alternative technologies – such as autoclaves – following the withdrawal of government PFI funding from seven local authority projects (see letsrecycle.com story).


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