Drax asthma case dropped by HSE

March 10, 2023

A prosecution against the owners of the UK’s largest power station has been dropped by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

HSE alleged health and safety failings at the Drax plant relating to workers' exposure to wood dust with five employees developing asthma. But a causal link between the asthma and handling of the biomass could not be established to the criminal standard. Legal proceedings were started by the HSE looking at the control of exposure to wood dust contained in biomass after it was told about the employees in October 2015. Drax Power Ltd pleaded not guilty to two counts of breaching health and safety legislation between 2006 and 2017, and a trial was set to start on June 5. But new information from Drax about the design and the commissioning of infrastructure at its power station near Selby, intended to minimise workers’ exposure to wood dust. As the matter has progressed to trial, further expert evidence was provided by the defence. That evidence undermined the original prosecution evidence which led the HSE to discontinue the prosecution.

During the investigation, the HSE served two Improvement Notices relating to the control of biomass dust, which Drax complied with. A HSE spokesman said: “This has been a lengthy and thorough investigation involving a complex area of regulation. “New information emerged towards the end of last year as part of the legal disclosure process, which HSE had a duty to review. As a result of this review, there is no longer a reasonable prospect of securing a conviction for the most serious failings alleged and it is not now in the public interest to continue with the prosecution. “There is no evidence of continuing risk of harm from exposure to wood dust at the Drax Power Station.”

Drax Power Station. (25-03-27 SU)

Share this article