Viridor fined £133,000 over WEEE plant worker injury

Waste and resources firm Viridor has been fined £133,000 after a worker’s hand was injured by ‘defective’ hydraulic cutters at the company’s WEEE recycling facility in St Helens, Merseyside.

Proceedings were brought against the company by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) over the incident dating back to October 2017.

The prosecution was brought to court by the Health and Safety Executive

Viridor was handed the penalty at Sefton Magsitrates Court this week, after having pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety legislation.

During proceedings, the court was told how the employee, Alan Tabern, was working on a fridge dismantling line when the injury occurred. According to the HSE, the worker reported a defect in the cutters but the procedure to make the equipment safe was not then followed.

HSE said that the cutters were left close to where he was working, and when he moved them out of his way, the tool amputated the top of the index finger of his right hand and partially severed another finger.

The HSE added that an investigation had found that although defects with the cutters were common, problems were not always reported and the procedure for lock-off and isolation was being ‘inconsistently applied’.

Viridor pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and was fined £133,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,204.85 at Sefton Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday (May 22)

Speaking after the case, HSE inspector Catherine Lyon said: “The life changing injuries caused by this accident could have been avoided if the procedure for the safe lock-off and isolation of equipment had been followed.

“Employers should ensure their safety procedures remain effective by monitoring their use and checking that they are being fully implemented.”

‘Regret’

The St Helens site accepts both cooling and display equipment, as well as small and large domestic appliance and small mixed WEEE. The fridge processing plant can process around 600,000 units per annum.

When contacted by letsrecycle.com for a comment, a Viridor spokesperson said the judge had noted the company’s ‘genuine regret’ over the incident and acknowledged steps it had taken to prevent similar incidents from occurring.

Inside Viridor’s St Helens WEEE processing site

The spokesperson said: “Viridor takes its health and safety responsibilities very seriously. Nothing is more important than the safety of our people and Viridor regrets the accident and injury suffered by Alan Tabern.

“Prior to this, Viridor had site-specific risk assessment and safe operating procedures with training for staff at the St Helens site. In addition, in 2008, the company retrofitted additional safety measures and introduced task-specific risk assessments and procedures along with further training on safe behaviours.

“Viridor has also implemented a comprehensive strategy for health and safety called ‘HomeSafe’. This is designed to raise standards, prevent harm and create a culture of safety targeting 4,600 people across the company.

“The district judge at Sefton Magistrates’ Court acknowledged the company’s genuine regret regarding the accident, and recognised HomeSafe as one of the many considerable steps taken by Viridor to raise health and safety standards.”

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