Recycling company fined £160,000 after workers exposed to dust


Health and safety executive

A wood waste recycling centre put the long-term health of its employees in danger due to excessive exposure to the dust, a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution has found.

Esken Renewables Limited were fined £160,000 and ordered to pay £5,310.35 in costs at Teesside Magistrates’ Court on 23 May 2024.

The company failed to design and operate processes and activities to minimise the emission, release and spread of wood dust, the HSE said.

Esken Renewables
Esken Renewables is a waste and recycling company.

Esken Renewables is a waste and recycling company specialised in generating biofuel from renewable waste.

It ran a wood waste recycling centre in Middlesborough that processed mixed wood waste, hardwood, and softwood into biofuel.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 7(1) of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002.

The HSE said one of its inspectors visited the site in April 2022 to investigate dust exposure on the site after concerns were raised about wood dust spreading to the surrounding area.

The inspector wrote to Esken Renewables with evidence demonstrating the extent of the wood dust exposure to staff, the HSE said.

The HSE said the company replied that the dust’s exposure to the surrounding area was due in large part to four storms in quick succession.

However, the HSE investigation found that the control of wood dust to protect employees working on and around the site was not adequate and fell short of the expected benchmark.

According to the HSE, breathing in excessive amounts of wood dust can cause asthma and nasal cancer. Softwood dust is an asthmagen while particles from hardwood are carcinogenic.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Matthew Dundas said: “The expected standard is to control exposure to as low a level as is reasonably practicable.

“We hope this serves to raise industry awareness for the expectation of control of hazardous substances, namely wood dust, in the wood waste and recycling industry.”

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