A Lye recycling firm has been fined more than £19,000 after a worker was knocked out by nitrogen gas while clearing a blockage in a machine.
Steve Barnes climbed into a chute after an appliance — used for breaking down fridges — got stuck at Overton Recycling. But the 47-year-old from Birmingham had to be rescued after being overwhelmed by nitrogen gas.
This substance is used in the machines to reduce the risk of fridges exploding.
The Rufford Street firm admitted breaching regulations and was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive landing a fine of £13,000 and costs of £6,107 at Halesowen Magistrates Court yesterday.
Mr Barnes was taken to hospital after the incident on June 1 last year and was off work for three days.
He has recovered physically, but the court heard that he has since suffered from poor sleep, mood swings and flashbacks which are only now subsiding.
Magistrates also heard it was usual for workers at the firm to climb into the chute, used to feed fridges into the machine for recycling, to clear blockages.
An investigation by the executive found the presence of the nitrogen in the chute had not been assessed.
The company had also failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment which would have identified the risk of climbing into a confined space.
The executive said the company should have had a system in place for clearing blockages which did not require entry into the chute.
Bosses at Overton Recycling pleaded guilty to breaching regulations.
Executive inspector Angela Gallagher said: "Companies need to ensure all machinery and processes are properly assessed. Had this been done, the nitrogen would have been identified as a hazard and the chute recognised as confined space with the right safety systems installed."