Chemical firm fined for fireball
Published: 09 May 2013
A chemical firm has been fined £120,000 after an employee sustained severe burns when he was engulfed by a fireball at a factory in Wirral.
The 45 year old from Kirby was kept in an induced coma for seven weeks following the explosion at SAFC Hitech Ltd's plant in Bromborough, on 28 February last year. The company was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following an investigation into the incident, which left the employee with burns to his face, right arm and upper body.
Liverpool Crown Court heard that the company had been manufacturing a chemical called trimethylindium (TMI), which is used during the production of LEDs and in the semi-conductor industry. Waste from the purification process had been left on a bench to deactivate in an unsealed glass bottle, despite being explosive if it is exposed to air or water.
Shortly after starting his shift, the worker entered the waste deactivation area and the waste in the glass bottle exploded, sending shards of glass across the yard. He does not remember the incident, but colleagues reported seeing him running around in a ball of flames. He was taken to a specialist burns unit and induced into a coma. He was kept in hospital for almost three months, and still has extensive scars and difficulty moving.
SAFC Hitech Ltd pleaded guilty to single breaches of the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations SI 2002/2776 and the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, with regard to failing to:
- carry out a suitable risk assessment for dealing with waste from the TMI purification process;
- supervise and monitor; and
- ensure the safety of employees.
New landfill tax regime for Scotland
Published: 08 May 2013
The Scottish Government has published plans for its new landfill tax, which will replace the UK-wide taxation scheme from 22 April 2015.
The Landfill Tax (Scotland) Bill 2013, will tax the waste sent to landfill in Scotland, to encourage the proper disposal and recycling of materials. It also establishes a "communities fund", paid for by landfill operators, which will provide financial support to environmental organisations and benefit the communities living near to waste disposal sites.
Landfill tax is a tax on the disposal of waste, it aims to encourage waste producers to produce less waste and consider sustainable waste management options, such as recycling and anaerobic digestion. Since its introduction in 1997, the current tax has contributed to a 32% reduction in the proportion of waste sent to UK landfills, and has resulted in a similar increase in recycling.
Under the Scotland Act 2012, the Scottish Parliament can introduce and manage taxes on the disposal of waste at landfill from April 2015. They will also be given the power over taxes on the purchase or leasing of land and buildings, such as the stamp duty land tax. UK taxes will be "switched off" in Scotland in April 2015, and the Scottish Government will assume responsibility for determining their nature, including rates, thresholds, exemptions, collection and enforcement.
The Bill also includes provisions allowing illegal disposal activities to be taxed, something not currently provided for in the UK regime. It will tax the disposal of waste by way of landfill at a landfill site, but allows land to be treated as a landfill site even if it has not been authorised as such. So anyone who "made" or "knowingly permitted" a disposal at an unauthorised site will be liable to pay the tax. Landfill site operators will be liable to pay the tax at authorised sites.
Arctic acidifying rapidly
Published: 07 May 2013
Scientists from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme have been monitoring ocean chemistry in the Arctic region, and have warned that CO2 emissions are causing a rapid acidification of Arctic seas. The problem is so severe that they claim even if†CO2 emissions stopped now, it would take tens of thousands of years for Arctic Ocean chemistry to revert to pre-industrial levels.
Acidification causes a threat to several sea creatures, including those that are commercially important, meaning industrial fishing and indigenous communities could be severely affected.
The Arctic Ocean is particularly susceptible to acidification because it is so cold, meaning it can absorb more carbon dioxide. This problem is increased by the fact that there are increasing flows of freshwater from rivers and melting land ice which is less effective at chemically neutralising the acidifying effects of CO2.
Richard Bellerby from the Norwegian institute for Water Research explained, "Large rivers flow into the Arctic, which has an enormous catchment for its size. There’s slow mixing so in effect we get a sort of freshwater lens on the top of the sea in some places, and freshwater lowers the concentration of ions that buffers pH change. The sea ice has been a lid on the Arctic, so the loss of ice is allowing fast uptake of CO2."
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UK policy up in the air
Published: 03 May 2013
The Supreme Court has ruled that the UK Government has failed in its legal duty under the Air Quality Directive to protect people from the harmful effects of air pollution.
The landmark decision in ClientEarth's favour is a departure from the judgements of the lower courts and paves the way for the European Commission to take legal action against the UK. The ruling means the UK Government could now face stiff European fines, may have to consider banning cars from some cities and limit the entry of heavy goods vehicles in order to reduce air pollution.
ClimateEarth's case related to 16 cities and regions across the UK, including London, Manchester and Glasgow, which Government plans show will suffer from illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide until as late as 2020 or 2025. Their CEO James Thornton said, "This historic ruling marks a turning point in the fight for clean air and will pile the pressure on the Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson. Faced with court action, he must now come up with an ambitious plan to protect people from carcinogenic diesel fumes. Until now, his only policy has been lobbying Europe to try and weaken air pollution laws."
He added, "The Supreme Court recognised that this case has broader implications for EU environmental law: The Government can't flout environmental law with impunity. If the Government breaks the law, citizens can demand justice and the courts must act."
For more information, see:
- Directive 2008/50/EC, on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe.
Review of HSE launched
Published: 03 May 2013
The Department for Work and Pensions has announced a Triennial Review of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). This is part of the Government's commitment to reform the public sector, meaning all public bodies are now subject to regular reviews.
Reviews began in 2010, which led to 500 public bodies being reformed. Following this, the Government committed to reviewing all remaining bodies at least every three years to make sure that they are still fit for purpose.
Mark Hoban, Minister for employment, said, "In 2010 we acted to close down unnecessary public bodies and ensure that those that remained were fit to deliver public services efficiently and effectively. Routine reviews, such as the one I am launching today, ensure that bodies such as the HSE continue to be fit for purpose, and that they are providing the value for money that the taxpayer expects."
Responding to the review, HSE Chair Judith Hackitt said, "It is approaching 40 years since the HSE was created and in that time the organisation has continually adapted to keep pace with changes in industry and to ensure the HSE continues to make a positive contribution to reducing death, injury and illness in the workplace. We welcome the opportunity to work with Martin Temple and to contribute to the review, which we expect to provide robust and helpful scrutiny of the HSE and its responsibilities."
Firms fined over driver death
Published: 30 Apr 2013
Two companies have been fined a total of £794,658 after a driver was run over and killed by his own lorry.
Gary Walters was working for haulier Larkins Logistics Ltd when the incident occurred on 11 October 2010. He was collecting a trailer loaded with structural concrete products from Bison Manufacturing Ltd in Derbyshire and failed to apply the brake in his cab. However, because Bison's drivers had not applied the brake to the trailer, the vehicle moved off as he was coupling the two parts together. Mr Walters is thought to have gone round the front of the vehicle in an attempt to get into the cab and apply the brakes, but was run over.
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that drivers working for Bison did not routinely apply the trailer brakes to make sure the units were safely parked. Police examined ten other trailers at the site, and found none had the brakes applied, and no other manual system of restraint (chocks or hooks) were in place.
Derby Crown Court heard there had been a number of other instances of lorries rolling away and Larkins' drivers had not been properly trained to assess the use of trailer brakes in the yard. Both companies had identified the risks to workers, but failed to implement appropriate control measures. Their method of working ignored published safety guidance, which meant that drivers and other employees were all at risk.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Judith McNulty-Green said, "This was not an isolated incident - sadly there are deaths and serious injuries to drivers every year in similar circumstances. It happened out of poor practice and was entirely preventable. Bison Manufacturing Ltd failed to implement a safe system of work for the storage of trailers with the brakes applied. They and Larkins Logistics Ltd also failed to implement and monitor working procedures for coupling and uncoupling trailers in the yard, and they failed to do it despite previous incidents.
"Had they done so they would have realised trailer brakes were routinely not being applied, taken appropriate action and a man would not have lost his life so needlessly."
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