Waste management provider, Veolia Environmental Services, has been fined after an agency worker was seriously burned by hot ash at an incineration depot in Deptford.

The employee, who does not want to be named, sustained 17% burns to his body whilst cleaning ash from a filtration hopper at a Veolia plant on Landman Way on 29 December 2009.

The ash fell onto him when he entered the hopper and started prodding it with a rod in order to clear a blockage. He was hospitalised for almost a month as a result of the burns he sustained.

An investigation by the HSE into the incident found Veolia did not follow its own policies and procedures for the management of dangerous tasks of this nature. This put a vulnerable worker at risk by failing to provide him with adequate information or supervision.

City of London Magistrates’ Court heard that the employee, from Eastern Europe, spoke little English and had not been properly briefed in the working practices at the incineration plant.

Veolia ES SELCHP Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 for supervisory failings that led to dangerous working practices, was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £12,243.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector, Kerry Williams, said:

“The victim was a vulnerable worker who should have been protected whilst working for Veolia Environmental Services. However, he wasn’t provided with the basic information, training or supervision to allow him to complete his job safely. As a result he was badly exposed and he sustained severe burns in an incident that could easily have been avoided.

“Veolia operates a high hazard site in Deptford and as such should ensure its systems are sufficiently robust to ensure people are not placed at unnecessary risk.”