Two recycling firms have been fined after several workers were injured by exploding print toner cartridges.

The cartridges had been improperly stored and handled.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) said Ereco EMEA Corporation had not taken the required precautions before starting a shredding process involving dangerous substances.

Unsafe system of work

A joint Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and Surrey Fire Rescue Service (SFRS) investigation found Ereco had failed to put in place a safe system of work to reduce the risk of dangerous substances.

Ereco had not:

  • carried out suitable fire risk assessments
  • followed guidelines in the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002

The investigation also discovered:

  • machines had been overloaded with cartridges and that more than a residual amount of toner powder remained inside
  • generic rather than specific data had been used to determine whether an explosive atmosphere could arise

The machinery used to shred and process the recycled cartridges was designed by Paramount Waste Extraction Ltd.

Prosecutors said Paramount ‘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’.

The firm’s ‘lax approach’ to Health & Safety was criticised, including ignoring warnings from SFRS.

Sentencing

Ereco was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay costs of £30,000 for failing to:

  • comply with the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974
  • take general fire precautions under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

Paramount was fined £16,000 and ordered to pay £16,000 costs for breaking the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

HSE

The HSE said it was extremely lucky the incident did not prove fatal.

It commented ‘Both 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’.

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