Two companies, including New Earth Solutions, have been fined after an employee was injured by an industrial vacuum at its Avonmouth energy recovery facility, in Bristol.
The injured man, who does not want to be named, was employed as an industrial cleaner to clean thermal treatment units. In August 2013 he agreed to help empty ash, a by-product of the thermal treatment process, from steel barrels using a specialist vacuum machine but during the process, one of his colleagues used a fork lift truck to shake the vacuum to dislodge any remaining ash deposits from the filters. It subsequently came off the forks of the truck, overturned and struck the cleaner, trapping him underneath and leaving him with a fractured back and two fractured ribs; he was unable to return to work for seven months.
Bristol Magistrates’ Court was told that New Earth Solutions Group Ltd, which runs the mechanical biological treatment facility, had commissioned an energy recovery facility next to the site. During the design, build and commissioning phases, the new facility was under the control of NEAT Technology Group Ltd. When the site began operating, responsibility of the site was transferred to New Earth Solutions.
An investigation by the HSE found that both companies failed to assess the risks associated with unblocking the vacuum filters and did not identify a safe system of work using appropriate equipment to unblock the machine. Both also failed to sufficiently train and instruct workers on how to unblock the filters safely. and did not monitor or supervise the process.
New Earth Solutions Group Ltd was fined £14,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,241; and NEAT Technology Group Ltd was fined £16,000 and also ordered to pay costs of £1,24.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Matthew Tyler said: “This incident highlights the importance of effectively controlling the risks associated with all work processes. This did not occur in this case, and the consequences could have been far more serious. This incident could have easily been avoided and the injured cleaner would not have been injured had both companies planned this work properly and provided with appropriate training and supervision.”