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£220,000 fine issued but previous 'good safety' recognised

14 June 2017

Teesside Crown Court has handed a fine of £220,000 to Suez Recycling and Recovery after an employee sustained serious burns at its Billingham, County Durham, energy from waste site.

During the hearing, the court heard that the incident occurred when the worker had attempted to remove a blockage in a chute.

When the blockage fell into a quench pit of water, a plume of hot water, ash and steam was propelled through the open chute.

As a result, the employee suffered burns to his back, arms, legs, face and ears and required treatment in hospital for 11 days.

This was the second time that this type of incident had occurred at the site, with a previous example occurring eight months prior to the one in question, the court was told.

The subsequent safety review resulting from the first incident saw a number of recommendations made, but the court was told that not all of these had been fully actioned.

Speaking on behalf of Suez, barrister Stuart Denney QC said the company wished to issue a public apology for the accident and the injuries sustained by its employee.

The worker continues to be employed by the business and Mr Denney stated that a separate civil action had been settled, negating the need for a further compensation award.

He said that although Suez had made a "real effort" to improve its processes and design a new system following the first incident, it had not been "good enough in making sure everyone followed it".

Further improvements have been introduced since the second incident, said Mr Denney.

Suez had pleaded guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work, etc, Act 1974 during its first court appearance on 10 January this year.

Acknowledging the company's previous good safety record, judge Deborah Sherwin said there had also been safety breaches "over a number of years".

She also recognised that Suez had given the incident "a lot of thought" and put new measures in place to avoid any recurrence.

Judge Sherwin issued a fine of £220,000 and awarded costs of nearly £12,700.


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