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Avonmouth waste companies fined over vacuum injury

Two companies have been fined a total of £30,000 after a worker was hit by an industrial machine at a waste treatment site in Bristol.

Bristol Magistrates’ Court heard that on 5 August 2013, the worker from Bristol employed as an industrial cleaner was helping to empty ash from steel barrels with a vacuum machine.

A colleague used a fork lift truck to shake the machine to dislodge ash deposits from the filters. It came off the forks of the truck, overturned and struck the cleaner, trapping him underneath.

He suffered a fractured back and two fractured ribs, and was unable to return to work for seven months.

Waste management company New Earth Solutions Group, which runs the mechanical biological treatment plant, 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 energy-from-waste specialist NEAT Technology Group. When the site began operating, responsibility of the site was transferred to New Earth Solutions.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (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. They also failed to sufficiently train and instruct workers to unblock the filters safely and did not monitor or supervise the process.

New Earth Solutions Group was fined £14,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,241 after pleading guilty to the charge.

NEAT technology Group was fined £16,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,241 after also pleading guilty to the same breach.

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 appropriate training and supervision.”

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