Waste management company, Sterecycle (Rotherham) Limited, was found guilty of corporate manslaughter and fined £500,000 following the death of an employee. This incident occurred at the company’s plant in South Yorkshire in January 2011. In October 2012, Sterecycle ceased operations after having been placed into administration. It is uncertain how much of the £500,000 fine will be recovered.
The incident was caused by a failing autoclave door that burst under pressure resulting in a fatal head injury to one employee and life-changing injuries to another employee. The matter was investigated by South Yorkshire Police and the Health and Safety Executive. They uncovered longstanding issues with the autoclave doors that had not been properly rectified: the doors had been modified without adequate consideration of the affect on other equipment; safety devices had been removed to speed up production and breakdowns were fixed as quickly as possible with no proper consideration or investigation as to the root cause. Consequently resulting in the failure of a screw connection to the autoclave locking ring that secured the door to the machine which caused the explosion.
Sheffield Crown Court found Sterecycle guilty of corporate manslaughter on 7 November. The company’s operations director and operations manager had previously been acquitted of charges under section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. Furthermore, a former maintenance manager was found not guilty of perverting the course of justice.
Detective Sergeant Rob Platts, who lead the investigation for SYP, commented:
“I am pleased with the verdict reached today as it recognises the systemic failings of a company who had a duty of care to its employees. The company was aware of a longstanding issue with the autoclave doors and made no effort to repair the problem properly, putting the lives of their employees at risk. Because of the company’s inexcusable neglect, a man lost his life in a completely avoidable incident.”
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