TWO workers were killed in an horrific industrial accident at the Sonae wood processing factory in Kirkby on Tuesday 7th December 2010. Thomas Elmer, 27, and James Bibby, 25, both from Rossendale, Lancashire, were working for sub-contractor Metso when the accident happened. They were dragged by a conveyor belt into a huge silo machine which they were working to maintain, staff at the plant said.
Shut down Sonae!
The history of the Sonae plant at Kirkby provides a chilling context to this latest tragedy. This is a company that 7 years ago we, along with local campaigners, publicly named as a habitual offender, responsible for serial crimes against the environment and against the safety of its workers, calling for its closure. Sonae responded with a libel letter.
Since its opening by the Duke of Edinburgh in 2000, supported by almost £2milion of taxpayers money, the Sonae plant has led a charmed life.
Within a year, local residents were calling for the plant to be shut down. They reported symptoms known to be associated with exposure to formaldehyde - used in chipboard manufacturing. These included irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, skin problems, and breathing difficulties. Those living near the plant regularly found their cars and gardens coated in the dust.
In 2003, the company was fined for three pollution offences. Then, in 2004, Sonae pleaded guilty to a further three charges brought by Knowsley council. By February 2007, the council had served 17 enforcement notices on Sonae under environmental legislation. The plant also has a long record of health and safety violations. The Health and Safety Executive – called in to investigate Tuesday’s deaths – has prosecuted the company four times in relation to serious injuries to workers at the plant and has issued 12 enforcement notices to stop or improve work that was in breach of the law.
In the last 3 years Sonae claimed to have cleaned up its act – and there have been no prosecutions of the company since 2007. But fires, local evacuations and plant shutdowns have continued.
Whatever circumstances led to two men going to work on Tuesday never to return to their families and friends, it is surely time to shut down this plant which has shown it cannot operate within the law.
Comment left by mary oakes on 17th June, 2011 at 22:43
Comment left by gary on 1st May, 2012 at 19:55
Comment on this article: