Health and Safety Executive Dropped Legal Action Against Drax Plant

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) dropped legal proceedings against Drax power plant station after concerns that wood dust was being exposed to its employees. Drax provides 11% of the UK’s renewable power and employs around 2,300 people, therefore it has a huge responsibility to protect workers from harmful substances such as wood dust. It was found that 5 Drax employees developed asthma but there was no proven causal link between developing asthma and Drax’s lack of health and safety practices.

Criminal charges were brought against Drax under Regulation 6(1) of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 and s.2(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. However, HSE dropped the charges after new information was provided. 

In its defence, Drax provided evidence that proved that there was no continued risk to employee health and safety. HSE served two improvement notes on Drax during the investigation into its practices in relation to the way in which it controlled biomass dust. Drax complied with the improvements and HSE couldn’t prove that there was any risk to employee health and no link between Drax’s health and safety standards and occupational health risks. 

What Can Employers Learn From This?

In 2022/23, HSE conducted over 1,000 woodworking inspections. A shocking 78% of companies did not comply with the health and safety standards when it came to protecting workers from respiratory sensitisers, mainly hardwood, softwood and composite material dust. As a result, HSE made 402 enforcement actions against organisations.

The HSE says that an estimated 12,000 deaths per year are caused by lung diseases that have developed as a result of exposure at work. Exposure to wood dust can cause asthma, damage to the central nervous system and dermatitis. As such, HSE advises companies to do the following:

  • Avoid dry sweeping as it creates dust clouds and redistribution of dust which can be inhaled. 
  • Instead, vacuum equipment of at least class M (medium hazard) classification or a suction hose should be used. 
  • Prevent the spread of dust by capturing wood dust at the source at the time it is produced.
  • Use tight-fitting respirator equipment by doing a face fit test to make sure masks are suitable for the individual. Don’t forget that facial hair and glasses can cause the respirator to lift up which means that contaminated air can leak in easier. 
  • Woodworking employers must undergo health surveillance. This means trying to identify any health effects as soon as possible.

HSE has recently launched a “Dust Kills Campaign” to protect workers from harmful exposure to dust in the workplace. This means that as of 15th May 2023, inspections are being made around the country to monitor dust control and make sure that all companies are complying with the safety regulations. HSE is not afraid to impose enforcement action or take matters to court if they find that organisations are not following the correct procedures. 

Health & Safety Online Training

As today’s working environments continually evolve, so do the risks and challenges they present. And our Health & Safety e-learning courses are more relevant than ever.

Our online training comprehensively covers key areas of workplace safety including Behavioural Safety, Emergency First Aid, Manual Handling, and Working at Height. We offer industry-specific modules like Asbestos Awareness, CDM Awareness, and NVQ Units, crucial for construction sector workers.

Contact us to schedule your complimentary consultation.

West Wing, Greenhill House, Thorpe Road, Peterborough, PE3 6RU

01733 217 690