Recycling company Metal and Waste Recycling has been fined £49,500 and ordered to pay £25,483 costs for failing to protect workers from lead poisoning.
Its facility at Edmonton in London had bought and was stripping some lead-sheathed copper cabling from British Telecom after the network began to be changed from copper to fibre optic cable.
An investigation carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that between October 2008 and July 2009, more than 90 workers, most of whom were Romanian, were significantly exposed to lead as a result of this process.
HSE inspectors visited the site in April 2009 after an employee made a complaint and found that nothing had been done to reduce lead exposure.
It also found that although gloves were provided by the company, workers wore their own clothes potentially spreading lead to other people. Metal and Waste Recycling had also not carried out legally required blood tests or other health checks on people working with lead.
A doctor appointed by the HSE found that 23 workers had significantly high levels of lead in their blood. Of these, six had symptoms of lead poisoning and were referred to St Thomas’ Hospital poisons unit and two were put on chelation therapy by consultant toxicologists.
HSE inspector Chris Tilley said: “Lead exposure is a recognised cause of occupational ill health and its dangers are well known and documented. Working with lead requires adequate measures to either prevent or control exposure and appropriate monitoring of employees’ blood lead levels.
“In this case, there was an abysmal lack of care from the company. It failed to implement adequate control measures, carry out any health surveillance of their workers and provide adequate welfare facilities.”
Metal and Waste Recycling pleaded guilty to breaching the Control of Lead at Work Regulations 20o2 between 1 November 2008 and 1 October 2009 at Westminster Magistrates Court.