Recycling firm, Sterecycle, has been found guilty of corporate manslaughter and fined £500,000, after an employee died through the company’s “inexcusable neglect”
Michael Whinfrey, 42, was killed in January 2011 after a pressure vessel in an incinerator exploded at the Rotherham-based Sterecycle waste site.
Whinfrey was airlifted to Leeds General Hospital but died later from his injuries. Another employee sustained serious life-changing injuries in the explosion.
The company has been guilty of corporate manslaughter and ordered to pay the fine at Sheffield Crown Court.
HSE Inspector, Carol Downes – “This terrible incident was entirely preventable… The clear standards and strict inspection regimes set out in the regulations were totally neglected by the company”
Sterecycle’s former maintenance managerm Kevin Goss, was found not guilty of perverting the course of justice.
HSE Inspector Carol Downes said: “This terrible incident was entirely preventable… The clear standards and strict inspection regimes set out in the regulations were totally neglected by the company.”
An investigation conducted by South Yorkshire Police and the Health and Safety Executive found the explosion resulted from the failure of a screw connection to the autoclave locking ring, which secured the door to the machine.
The two large autoclaves, or pressure chambers, had refuse placed into them and high temperatures and steam pressure were applied to treat the waste and convert it to a fibrous material that could be used as fertiliser.
Downes said: “Sterecycle (Rotherham) Ltd didn’t properly understand the risks of, and lacked the competence in, operating steam pressure autoclave systems.
“Modifications were made to the autoclaves without adequately considering the effect on the equipment.
“Safety devices were removed because they slowed production and when breakdowns occurred ‘running repairs’ were made without ever getting to the root cause of the problems.
“Employees were inadequately trained and felt in genuine fear for their safety at the site. The view was taken that production should be maintained at all costs.”