A contentious Lancashire waste plant has been slapped with a notice to improve after it was found to be flouting health and safety laws.
The Farington Waste Technology Park, on Sustainability Way, Farington, Leyland, failed to guard staff from dangerous parts of machinery.
In leaked documents seen by the Evening Post, health and safety bosses told site managers they must improve, or they could be fined up to £20,000.
The £320m waste plant, which is jointly run by Global Renewables Lancashire and Lancashire County Council and employs around 400 staff, has been at the centre of controversy since it opened last year for problems with smells.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have now handed the park an ‘improvement notice’, telling them they must improve working practice.
In documents, they said staff had “free access to dangerous moving part of machinery” in magnetic belts after a locking system had been deliberately removed.
There was a risk someone’s hand could be dragged into the machine, the documents said.
The reports said a simple risk assessment would have made it “immediately obvious there were accessible parts of dangerous machinery that required guarding.”
The action came about after health bosses visited the site, which is the size of 14 football pitches, on November 6.
Health bosses were also investigating complaints by staff that they were being asked to clear shredder machines without “appropriate isolation of the machine.”
Global Renewables now has a period of time to appeal the complaint and they must inform the HSE in writing how they have improved the problem before December 14.
Resident Tim Carter, who led a campaign group against the site when it first opened, said: “They were supposed to have used this information elsewhere, and when it came to Lancashire it was supposed to be a well tried process that Lancashire bought into.
“Every aspect seems to be beset by problems.”
Fellow resident Andy Farrell, who lives on Moss Lane, Leyland, said: “There has been problems with the site since its inception.
“What chance do the community have with resolving problems when they aren’t even looking after the people who work for them?
“It just seems to be one thing after another. These new problems don’t surprise me at all.
“I imagine problems with the site will carry on for a long, long time.”
A spokesman for the Health and Safety Executive said: “The improvement notice was issued on November 13 and related to preventing access to dangerous parts of machinery.
“The company have got 21 days in which they can appeal the notice.”
In March last year, Global Renewables was accused of being in breach of operating guidelines by the Environment Agency surrounding problems with smells after the plant’s bio-filters – peat beds filled with smell-eating bugs, failed.
Residents in Farington will decide in the coming weeks where community grants of up to £100,000 will be spent after Lancashire County Council agreed a ‘gesture of goodwill’ to people who had been plagued by the problems.
The cash has been taken from deductions in the council’s payments to the waste giant.
A spokesman for Global Renewables said: “A recent visit from HSE highlighted the fact that a section of protective netting covering a piece of machinery needed to be put back into position. This was done immediately but, as is normal procedure, HSE have served us with an improvement notice to record that we have formally acted on their recommendation. We have actually further strengthened the level of protection in the highlighted area and will be reporting formally back to HSE in line with their request.”
February 2011 - Residents begin complaining about smells
March 2011 - Global Renewables is accused of being in breach of operating guidelines by the Environment Agency
April 2011 - The company reports a 90 per cent reduction in odour, and vows to shut down household waste admissions to the site if levels reach those experienced in February
May 2011 - The Environment Agency reports the situation is ‘getting better’
June to August 2011 - Reports of smells drop. The problems look to be resolved
September 2011 - Increase in the number of complaints. Investigation showed this to be as a result of a faulty fire damper
Lancashire County Council announce deductions of up to £100,000 made from payments to Global Renewables will be donated to residents
October 2011 - Complaints over smells reach a peak, with more than 80 reported. Plans announced to raise the height of the site’s chimneys to disperse smells
November and December 2011 - Systems recovered and complaints dropped
January 2012 - Another increase in complaints. The company holds back on a planning application to raise the plant’s stacks, saying they want to carry out more discussions with residents
A ‘crack team’ is set up to solve the problem
May - A temporary stack is put up on the site to test how well it works
September - Waste bosses say the number of complaints have dropped from 140 in June, to 26 in September
October - It was announced new higher chimneys to resolve smell problems could be up and running by Christmas
November - The Health and Safety Executive carries out inspections at the site, revealing guards had been removed from dangerous parts of machinery, and issues an improvement notice