Recycling firm fined after arson attack

A York hazardous waste recycling company has been fined £40,000 and £6,110 costs for failing to safeguard flammable liquid that was used in an arson attack on the business.

BCB Environmental Management Limited pleaded guilty at Harrogate Magistrates Court to breaches of the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR) after illegally processing drums of volatile chemicals close to unprotected electrical equipment and forklift trucks.

The breaches came to light during a joint investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and North Yorkshire Police following an arson attack by a former employee in October 2008. The arsonist, who was later convicted for his crime, had ready access to the drums, which he ignited to start a blaze.

After the hearing HSE inspector Stephen Britton commented: “BCB Environmental Management Ltd processed drums containing flammable liquid close to unprotected electrical equipment, creating a real risk that they could have gone up at any time.”

He said the “prosecution offers food for thought, not just for the management at BCB, but for all involved in the recycling industry working with similar equipment and materials; they must adhere to the relevant legislation at all times to protect lives.”

HSE inspectors also found a dangerous drum crushing machine in use at BCB, which contravened the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. The court heard that a vital safety guard was missing from the machine, which exposed operators to dangerous internal mechanics, including a hydraulic ram capable of applying two tonnes of pressure.

Furthermore, employees would have struggled to stop the crusher should an accident have occurred because the safety stop switch was covered in grime and was almost unrecognisable.

HSE’s Stephen Britton added: “The removal of a safety guard on the drum crushing machine is unbelievable. The guard is there for one reason and one reason only, to protect workers. The consequences of exposing human limbs to a two tonne hydraulic crusher would be horrific.”

BCB’s news release after the 14 October 2008 fire was headed: “Fire in storage shed controlled. No-one hurt.” It quotes managing director Phil Boardman: “Although this was potentially serious, it has demonstrated the robustness of our safety procedures.”

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