The employees of John Pointon and Sons Ltd in Cheddleton, Stoke-on-Trent were overcome after opening a compartment within an animal waste trailer on April 23 2014.
One worker was overcome by fumes after he entered the compartment and two others were injured when they entered after him.
The workers suffered from a lack of oxygen in the atmosphere and a high presence of hydrogen sulphide.
Could have resulted in fatalities
Stafford Crown Court was told the incident was preventable and it could have resulted in fatalities.
John Pointon and Sons pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, Regulation 3(1)(a) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and Regulation 5(1) of the Confined Spaces Regulations 1997.
It was fined £250,000 and was made to pay costs of £37,362.
The HSE also mentioned that the company had been prosecuted twice before for two fatal incidents, which involved workers entering confined spaces in its processing plant.
Two fatal incidents
John Pointon and Sons was fined £660,000 on June 29 2015 after a worker died as he tried to fix an industrial cooker.
It was also ordered to pay a further £187,632 in costs after pleading guilty to safety failures that led to the death of Mark Bullock.
This is the latest in a series of prosecutions at recycling plants in the past year. Nick Brookes Recycling Ltd was fined £80,000 and London-based Metal & Waste Recycling Ltd was fined £20,000 in February 2016. For a full list of prosecutions, see the box below.
Waste disposal and recycling firm HSE prosecutions
- Sita UK Ltd: £200,000 fine – October 13 2015
- Walter Heselwood Ltd: £120,000 fine – February 2 2016
- Nick Brookes Recycling Ltd: £80,000 fine – May 26 2016
- Gwynn Davies-McTiffin Ltd: £80,000 fine – September 2 2015
- Metal & Waste Recycling Ltd: £20,000 fine – January 26 2016