Last reviewed 9 March 2022

A & S Metal Recycling Ltd of Stourport-on-Severn, a metal recycling business, and its director, Simon Davies, have been sentenced after a young employee of the company suffered serious burns following an explosion and flash fire.

Birmingham Magistrates’ Court heard that on 1 August 2019, the 15-year-old employee, working on a casual basis, suffered 22% burns to his body when aerosol canisters he had fed into a shredding machine exploded causing a flash fire at an industrial unit in Worcestershire.

Investigating Health and Safety Executive (HSE) officers found that the work unit was not an appropriate facility for processing aerosol canisters; control measures to prevent or mitigate fire and explosion risks were not put in place. Despite this, the activity was undertaken by minors, employed as part of a casual working arrangement, using inadequate equipment.

For this type of work, businesses are reminded of their duty to ensure a safe working environment, eg remove flammable substances, keep combustibles well away from the source of ignition, keep appropriate fire-fighting equipment nearby, remain vigilant and work in a well-ventilated area. In addition, when employing young workers, employers must protect them from any risks associated with their inexperience, lack of awareness of risks or danger, and physical and/or psychological immaturity.

A & S Metal Recycling Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching s.2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 (HSWA) and was fined £66,000 served as a compensation order to be paid to the injured person, ordered to pay a cost of £8192.55.

Simon Davies pleaded guilty to breaching s.37(1) of the HSWA and was given a six-month custodial sentence suspended for two years and was ordered to complete 100 hours of unpaid work.

Speaking after the case, HSE inspector Alex Stobart said: “The waste and recycling industry has the potential to be extremely hazardous, and in this case two children were needlessly exposed to significant risks on site.