An IT and electrical equipment recycling firm has been told to pay a total of £30,000 for failing to take fire precautions after a “catastrophic” explosion injured eight people.
The explosion occurred at eReco’s facility at the Hobbs Industrial Estate in Lingfield, Surrey, in October 2011. Five people were seriously injured and a 30-year-old employee had to be placed into an induced coma during a 15-week stay in hospital.
The incident was caused by print toner being incorrectly stored on-site.
A joint investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Surrey Fire and Rescue Service found that eReco failed to ensure there was a safe system of work in place to reduce the risk of dangerous substances, as outlined by the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002.
The investigation also found that Paramount Waste Extraction, the company which designed the machinery used to shred and process toner cartridges, “did not consider the likely misuse of the machine by overloading the processing of toner with more than a residual amount of toner powder left inside”.
EReco EMEA of Lewes Road, Forest Row, East Sussex, pleaded guilty at a hearing at Portsmouth Crown Court in December 2017 to health, safety and fire safety offences.
Sentencing took place on 27 February. The company was fined £15,000 for each offence and ordered to pay costs of £30,000.
Paramount Waste Extraction of Redehall Road, Smallfield, Surrey, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 (1) of the Healthy and Safety at Work Act 1974. The company was fined £16,000 and ordered to pay £16,000 costs.
HSE inspector Michelle Canning said: “All the employees involved in this incident are extremely lucky this explosion did not prove fatal.
“eReco failed to take the required precautions before starting a process of work with dangerous substances and this failure resulted in this serious, life-threatening explosion.
“Designers and suppliers must ensure that the risks of using their equipment are eliminated through safe design, and this should include taking into account foreseeable misuse.”
Following the sentencing, Denise Turner-Stewart, Surrey County Council’s cabinet member for communities, said: “Despite warnings, eReco failed to deal with the risk of fire at its plant leading to a catastrophic explosion of flammable toner powder.”