Firm exposed workers to toxic fumes – because it ‘couldn’t afford’ safety measures

editorial image

A South Tyneside firm which put workers at risk after flouting health and safety rules for nearly two years has been hit with a £13,000 court bill.

Templetown Canopies admitted that it exposed staff to styrene - described as a ‘hazardous substance’ - for several hours a day because it couldn’t afford a new ventilation system.

The company, which employs 11 people at a new base in Shaftsbury Avenue, South Shields, ignored a string of warnings from Health and Safety chiefs to improve safety measures at its former premises on the St Hilda’s Industrial Estate, South Shields, between May 1, 2013 and February 28. 2015.

The firm admitted contravening a health and safety regulation at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court.

The court heard that factory bosses did “little or nothing” to limit workers’ exposure to the chemical but a judge agreed to reduce the fine after their guilty plea and gave them three years to pay the cash, saying it was the “kind of enterprise the country needs” to recover from recession.

The court heard styrene can cause irritation to the nose, lungs and throat and can also effect the central nervous system. Nobody was found to have fallen ill during the period regulations were breached.

The court heard the firm was served with a improvement notice in May 2013 after a Health and Safety Executive inspection and told to install a local exhaust ventilation system but didn’t act until the following September - putting in place an ‘inadequate’ second-hand system.

The firm moved to Shaftsbury Avenue in March of last year and are now in line with HSE requirements.

Andy Siddall, prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive, said: “Styrene can be hazardous to the health. The company did little or nothing over a period of 22 months to limit exposure to the substance. They exposed employees to risks while they looked for new premises.”

Derek Elliott, who runs the firm with fellow director James Burnett, told the court they could not afford a new system.

He said: “The problem was purely cost. We were told it would cost £76,000. We simply couldn’t afford to put it in.”

District Judge Roger Elsey ordered the company to pay a fine of £8,500 and court costs of £4,500. He ordered the amount to be paid at a rate of £400 a month over the next three years.