UK Toner Blast Leads to Safety Fines

Wednesday, March 14, 2018 @ 12:03 PM gHale

Eight people were injured in the Hobbs explosion seven years ago.

Recycling company Ereco has been ordered to pay £60,000 (U.S. $83,703) for its mishandling of print toner, which led to an explosion that injured eight people and irreparably damaged a nearby print company on the Hobbs Industrial Estate in Surrey, England, in 2011.

The incident on October 3, 2011 resulted in one worker getting airlifted to King’s College Hospital, London, and placed in an induced coma. In addition, four others suffered critical injuries.

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The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Surrey Fire & Rescue found Ereco did not ensure there was a safe system of work in place to reduce risk from dangerous substances like toner.

Portsmouth Crown Court concluded Ereco failed to carry out suitable fire risk assessments and follow the guidelines in the Dangerous Substances & Explosive Regulations 2002.

On February 27, almost seven years on from the incident, the Crown Court ordered Ereco to pay £30,000 (U.S. $41,850.30) for health and safety legislation violations and an additional £30,000 (U.S. $41,850.30) in legal costs.

Damage from the resultant explosion impacted neighboring print company MI Print, a then seven-staff business. Two of its employees sustained minor injuries in the incident.

Managing director Ian Donald was told his firm would never be able to operate from the estate again. The printer has since ceased operating and was officially struck off from Companies House in April 2013. It is now in a state of liquidation, with Crawley-based solicitor Benedict Mackenzie Recovery the latest firm appointed as of January this year.

“Despite warnings, Ereco failed to deal with the risk of fire at its plant leading to a catastrophic explosion of flammable toner powder,” said Surrey County Council member for communities Denise Turner-Stewart. “Surrey Fire & Rescue Service works with employers to help them comply with fire safety laws, but where a lax approach puts people at risk [it] won’t hesitate to take enforcement and legal action.”

The investigation also found the machinery used to shred and process toner cartridges, constructed by Paramount Waste Extraction, had not been built with consideration for the possibility of overload due to residual toner powder left inside. Paramount was ordered to pay £32,000 (U.S. $44,639.36) in legislative violations and court costs.

“All the employees involved in this incident are extremely lucky this explosion didn’t prove fatal,” said HSE inspector Michelle Canning said. “Ereco failed to take the required precautions before starting a process of work with dangerous substances and this failure resulted in this serious, life threatening explosion. 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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