Recycling firm fined £160k after workers exposed to potentially cancer-causing dust

Esken Renewables Ltd Middlesbrough. <i>(Image: HSE)</i>
Esken Renewables Ltd Middlesbrough. (Image: HSE)

A recycling firm has been fined £160,000 after workers were exposed to wood dust that could cause cancer.

The site in Middlesbrough, run by Esken Renewables Limited, ran a wood waste recycling centre that processed mixed wood waste into biofuel.

Breathing in excessive wood dust can cause asthma and nasal cancer. Dust from softwood is a known asthmagen, and particles from hardwood are a known carcinogen.

Inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) were called to the site after concerns about wood dust spreading into the community, Teesside Magistrates Court heard.

The Northern Echo: Esken Renewables Ltd Middlesbrough.
The Northern Echo: Esken Renewables Ltd Middlesbrough.

Esken Renewables Ltd Middlesbrough. (Image: HSE)

The company provided a detailed response, and it was accepted dust spreading into the surrounding area was in large part due to four storms in quick succession.

However, a HSE investigation found the control of wood dust to protect employees working on and around the site was not adequate and fell short of the expectation.

The company failed to minimise the emission, release and spread of wood dust, such as through better ventilation or enclosing machinery.

The Northern Echo: Esken Renewables Ltd Middlesbrough.
The Northern Echo: Esken Renewables Ltd Middlesbrough.

Esken Renewables Ltd Middlesbrough. (Image: HSE)

The renewables firm, who operated the site at Port Clarence Road in Middlesbrough admitted breaching regulations over controlling “substances hazardous to health”.


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The court fined the firm £160,000 and ordered it to pay an extra £5,310.35 in costs this week.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Matthew Dundas said: “The expected standard is to control exposure to as low a level as is reasonably practicable.

“We hope this serves to raise industry awareness for the expectation of control of hazardous substances, namely wood dust, in the wood waste and recycling industry.”