A waste recycling company in administration has been fined £80,000 after a worker was buried under collapsed waste. 

The New Earth Solutions Group employee worked as an industrial cleaner at a rubbish site.

He had been operating the company’s shredding machine when a 30ft high stockpile of refuse fell on top of him. He suffocated as colleagues tried to dig him out from waste that fell “like a wave”.

No safe system of work

The worker had connected the shredder to a loading shovel. The court heard it was the first time he had used the shredder. It was usually operated remotely from the safety of the shovel’s cab. But the worker operated the shredder close to the stockpile from outside the cab.

The court found the company did not have a safe system of work and that the employee “lacked effective training” for the task. Indeed, the worker had only been shown how to use the shredder the day before and was not supervised.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) said the incident’s risk was “absolutely apparent and obvious”. An investigation found the company had not carried out risk assessments or provided safe systems of work for stockpiling waste. The firm had also not given structured training.

New Earth Solutions admitted breaching its duty to protect the employee under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

Reduced fine  

Under February’s sentencing guidelines, fines are now largely based on a company’s turnover.

New Earth Solutions Group’s turnover last year was £37 million. However, it went into administration in June with bank debts of £40 million.

While the company has now paid most of its bank debts it still owes creditors £9 million but only has funds of £600,000.

The judge said the administration tied his hands in terms of the size of fine he could order. He indicated it would otherwise have been between £600,000 and £1.3million.

However, the judge warned everyone should understand “companies do not get away with it simply by using the possibility of going into administration.”

New Earth Solutions was given six months to pay the £80,000 fine with costs of £38,373. The company’s administrators have said the fine will be considered alongside New Earth’s existing creditors.

Contact Ellis Whittam to make sure you protect your workers.

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