Recycling death highlights green job dangers

A man has died after an explosion at a UK waste recycling plant which left another man seriously injured.

The incident at the Sterecycle plant in Rotherham occurred mid-afternoon on 11 January. South Yorkshire Police said a waste incinerator had exploded, creating a hole in the factory’s wall. Michael Whinfrey, a 42-year-old father of three from Rotherham, was airlifted to hospital in Leeds where he later died. Peter Lindon Davis, 51, from Barnsley, was taken to Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital with serious, “potentially life-changing”, head and body injuries.

Sterecycle suspended operations at the plant after the blast. Sterecycle chief executive officer Tom Shields said: “We clearly regret this incident and have advised the Health and Safety Executive. We will urgently investigate the causes of the incident and ensure that all necessary actions are taken.”

The company, whose Rotherham plant is in the middle of a rapid expansion plan, was voted ‘one to watch’ at the ‘clean and green’ Cleantech industry awards in November 2010.

Sterecycle’s news release on the awards noted: “Design and construction works are already underway to increase the capacity of the Rotherham plant to 240,000 tonnes per annum by mid 2011.” In November 2010, its capacity stood at 100,000 tonnes.

The case is the latest to highlight potential risks to workers in ‘green’ industries. This week it was revealed an investigation is continuing into an incident last year on an offshore windfarm when an 18-tonne section of turbine plunged into the sea.

The £1bn Walney Offshore Windfarm is being built in the Irish Sea, nine miles from Barrow. Nobody was injured but local media reported a source had claimed two workers badly shaken by the incident later quit.

Danish firm Dong Energy, which is developing the windfarm, and the Health and Safety Executive launched investigations and work was stopped for a week after the August 2010 incident.

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