The failed New Earth Solutions Group has been fined £80,000 over the death of an employee, with the judge indicating that the penalty could have been up to 15 times greater if the company had not been in administration.
Neville Watson, 39 and a father of two, was killed when a pile of waste material fell on him at the Blaise in-vessel composting (IVC) site in West Malling, Kent.
He had been working close to the pile – said to be 8m high – after connecting a shredder to the loading shovel he was driving. He died of asphyxiation.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident in August 2014 found that New Earth Solutions Group (NESG) failed to undertake and prepare risk assessments or safe systems of work for the creation and management of the stockpiles or adequate training.
The company admitted breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of more than £38,000.
The judge indicated that, if the company had not been in administration, the fine would have been between £600,000 and £1.3m.
HSE inspector Guy Widdowson said after the hearing: “The request for Mr Watson to carry out the shredding operation was made without any form of structured training being in place. The company failed to ensure that Mr Watson was supervised by an employee trained in the task he was carrying out, particularly in light of the fact that he had never carried out the task before.”
In June, NESG and NES Facilities Management were acquired by newly formed company DM Opco from administration. On 13 October, PandaGreen announced it had bought all DM Opco’s business and assets.
The acquisition included all five NES waste treatment facilities which remain operational: the Avonmouth, Canford and Cotesbach mechanical biological treatment facilities and the Blaise and Sharpness IVC plants.
Unsecured creditors were owed more than £9m after the parent companies went into administration.