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Criminal proceedings against Drax over 'harmful' dust exposure dropped following new evidence

A court case against government-subsidised Drax Power Ltd over alleged health and safety breaches has been dropped.

In 2021 Sky News revealed that the energy giant was facing criminal prosecution over concerns that dust from its wood pellets allegedly posed a risk to employees' health.

But the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has decided to drop the case after Drax supplied it with new information about the infrastructure of its power station in Selby, North Yorkshire.

The design was intended to minimise workers' exposure to dust contained in the woody biomass pellets that it burns to generate electricity.

"Drax welcomes the decision by the HSE to discontinue the action... and that there is no evidence of continuing risk of harm from exposure to wood dust," a Drax spokesperson said.

"The health, safety and wellbeing of our colleagues is our top priority and we continually review and update our processes to ensure everyone working with us stays safe."

The news comes as Drax, which supplies 7% of UK electricity, posted bumper profits in a year of soaring energy prices.

Following reports that five employees had been diagnosed with occupational asthma, the HSE had investigated Drax's control of exposure to the wood dust.

Although it could not establish a sufficient "causal link" between the biomass and asthma, it was concerned Drax had failed to protect workers from exposure.

Read more:
Drax: Subsidies for power giant questioned as annual profits soar
Drax's renewable energy plant is UK's biggest CO2 emitter, analysis claims

But new expert evidence provided by the defence in the run up to the trial "undermines the original prosecution evidence", HSE said today.

"This has been a lengthy and thorough investigation involving a complex area of regulation," an HSE spokesperson said.

"New information emerged towards the end of last year as part of the legal disclosure process, which HSE had a duty to review.

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"As a result of this review, there is no longer a reasonable prospect of securing a conviction for the most serious failings alleged and it is not now in the public interest to continue with the prosecution.

"There is no evidence of continuing risk of harm from exposure to wood dust at the Drax Power Station."

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