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Recycling firm fined for subjecting workers to lead poisoning

An Edmonton-based recycling company has been fined for failing to protect employees working with lead.

The company 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 more than 90 workers - most of whom were Romanian - were significantly exposed to lead as a result of this process.

A HSE site visit found that nothing had been done to reduce lead exposure, with inadequate ventilation, face masks or respiratory equipment available. It also found that although gloves were provided by the company, workers wore their own clothes, potentially spreading lead to other people and their own homes when they left work. The company had not carried out blood tests or other health checks which are legally required when working with lead.

When HSE's appointed doctor carried out tests, 23 workers were found to have significantly high levels of lead in their blood. Of these, six people had symptoms of lead poisoning and were referred to St Thomas' Hospital poisons unit and two were put on chelation therapy by consultant toxicologists.

The company pleaded guilty breaching the Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002 and was fined £49,500 and ordered to pay £25,483 in costs.

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