Managing waste and recycling can have a positive impact on people and businesses but this is a sector where it is important to be operating in the right manner. There will often be a great deal of machinery and heavy equipment used in plants and firms that work in this sector, so there is a need to ensure that employees are fully trained in the correct working practices and procedures, even if this is a costly exercise for some firms.

One firm based in Carmarthen has received a fine of £55,000 after an investigation by Health and Safety inspectors. The inspectors were compelled to issue 8 separate notices which brought an immediate halt to work at the plant. The firm, Mekatek Ltd, was operating at Amex Park in Johnstown, received a routine inspection from HSE investigators in May of 2013. Issues which were uncovered include no barrier being provided to unguarded and dangerous machinery, a heightened level of risk of electrocution and the presence of asbestos in various parts of the premises.

One of the more serious breaches involved a “man basket” which was utilised alongside a forklift truck which enabled employees to carry out work at height. This basket was not properly secured to the truck and there was no cage with the basket. This increased the risk of employees being trapped by the mast of the fork lift truck.

Equipment and Machinery must be made Safe in the Workplace

Different machinery such as a paint mixing drum, a shredder, two compactors and a granulator all had areas where people could get caught in moving parts and there was also a discovery of electrical cables in liquid. The firm also had a number of pipe laggings which were damaged and exposed. Some of these pipes contained asbestos and even though the company had received a report from an industry specialist highlighting the danger of asbestos and the need for it to be removed as quickly as possible, the company had taken no action.

The firm pleaded guilty to breaching health of safety regulations, to breaching a control of asbestos regulations and to a breach of work equipment regulations. The firm was fined £35,000 and they were ordered to pay £20,000 in costs. Anyone of these elements could be extremely serious and it is perhaps through luck and good fortune that no serious incident occurred.

It is not just about Employees showing common sense

While it is fair to say that employees should practice common sense in the workplace, when there are so many risks like the ones on show here, the responsibility moves away from the employee and it is placed firmly on the employer. The consistency of issues and problems that employees were exposed to was the real issue in this case; this was indicated in the depth of fine imposed on the firm.

Clare Owen is an Inspector for HSE and she spoke after the hearing. She said; “The conditions at this site were extremely poor and the dangers were quite clear. It’s very fortunate no-one was killed or seriously injured there. Mekatek failed to manage basic health and safety at the site and these multiple failings confirm its approach was totally inadequate. The issues identified, such as cables trailing through liquid and management of asbestos should have been immediately obvious. The management also relied on health and safety managers it employed for advice but failed to check if they were competent and had appropriate qualifications, particularly for the management of asbestos. Twenty tradespeople, on average, die from asbestos related diseases in Britain every week and it’s the biggest single cause of work related deaths in the country. The lives of the 34 workers at the site and any visitors depended on the company meeting its legal health and safety obligations fully.”

Whether you are an employee or ex-employee looking to make a claim against an employer or you are the employer facing allegations or an investigation, there is a need to obtain the best standard of support and guidance. This is why it is crucial to call on the most effective and efficient health and safety at work claims solicitors you can hire. The right guidance and advice can make all the difference when it comes to being confident that you are being represented in the most appropriate manner.

Andrew Reilly is a freelance writer with a focus on news stories and consumer interest articles. He has been writing professionally for 9 years but has been writing for as long as he can care to remember. When Andrew isn’t sat behind a laptop or researching a story, he will be found watching a gig or a game of football.