Wednesday 5 February 2014

6 month sentence and £80,000 fine for "Dickensian" owner of lead processing company.

The owner of LDB Light Alloys Ltd. in Boughton, Nottinghamshire received a 6-month suspended prison sentence and fined £80,000 (inc. costs) failing to protect workers from the risks of lead poisoning after three employees became seriously ill.
The circumstances were:
  • LDB Light Alloys makes lead sheeting, which involves processing molten lead.
  • Extraction systems, personal protective equipment, respiratory protection, hygiene and rest facilities were all unsatisfactory.
  • No air monitoring or medical surveillance was provided.
  • Personnel had not been told about the effects of lead or how to recognise the symptoms of over-exposure.
  • Lunch breaks were taken in an old, lead-contaminated caravan with no running water. Water was collected in contaminated plastic milk cartons from a contaminated hand washing area in the workshop. Clothes worn for work were not removed before eating and drinking and there was no toilet facility at the factory.
  • One worker, Brook Northey, had the task of scraping off dross (solid impurities on the surface of molten lead in a crucible) and pouring the excess into containers.
  • He required specialist treatment at the West Midlands Poisons Unit after working at LDB Light Alloys Ltd.
  • Mr Northey was hospitalised for three weeks in May 2011 and continued to receive treatment for over a year. He was also off work for a year and can never work with lead again.
  • Prior to being diagnosed with lead poisoning he had been admitted to hospital with renal problems.
  • The HSE served a Prohibition Notice halting all work with immediate effect.

Sentencing Mr Brown, His Honour Judge Dickinson said:
“It would take the skill of Charles Dickens to adequately describe the conditions in which your staff worked.”
The HSE inspector said:
“Overexposure to lead can have significant long and short-term effects on employees and their lives. Anyone working with lead must put systems in place to control the risks. Mr Brown was reckless in his attitude to the health of his employees. He had not controlled or assessed their exposure to lead or other substances by controlling them at source and had not provided suitable respiratory or   personal protective equipment. He had allowed employees to eat and drink in contaminated areas and had failed to make them aware of the risks and symptoms they might have.”

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