A foundry owner whose ‘reckless’ approach to health and safety led to his staff being poisoned was ordered to pay out £80,000 in fines and costs.
Lawrence Dennis Brown (65), was also given a six-month jail term, suspended for 18 months after he failed to carry out risk assessments, provided little training to employees and left safety equipment poorly maintained at his lead-smelting factory on Boughton Industrial Estate.
A 28-year-old employee needed treatment at a poison unit for more than a year after working at Lawrence’s former firm, LDB Light alloys Ltd. Another two also fell ill.
Lawrence, of Lime Grove, Forest Town, admitted breaching health and safety rules during sentencing at Nottingham Crown Court this week.
On passing sentence, Judge Gregory Dickinson QC, said: “Working with lead is potentially highly dangerous, and you knew that.
“You failed woefully in your duty on practically every level.
“It would take the skills of a Charles Dickens to describe the conditions.”
The case came to light in 2011 after an employee was admitted to hospital with severe kidney pains caused by lead poisoning.
After an investigation was launched by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), a prohibition notice to prevent the smelting of lead on the premises was served in June 2011.
The court heard how Lawrence, who has since sold the company, even breached the order, and carried on smelting lead.
Outlining the case on behalf of the HSE, barrister Alex Stein said that the workshop produced lead sheeting for church roofs.
It was heard that respiratory equipment was ‘poorly maintained’, there were no proper cleaning facilities, and inadequate hygiene and ventilation.
They employees had a ‘ramshackled’ caravan in which they would take breaks, which was found to be contaminated with lead dust.
Lawrence claimed he could not afford an industrial vacuum cleaner when asked by his employees, despite having assets worth £214,000, and more than £46,000 in the bank.
His annual drawings from the firm ranged from £36,000 to beyond £100,000.
Judge Dickinson continued: “If you can’t afford to run a business safely, you should not run it at all.
“You had the money but you were more interested in your property portfolio than proper investment in your business.”
After sentencing, the HSE released a statement calling Lawrence ‘reckless in his attitude’.
Defending, Baz Bhatia, said in mitigation that Lawrence had a business partner when the firm started out, but he died a year later, leaving Lawrence to carry the company on.
He said Lawrence then had a firm that he was ‘ill equipped’ to run.
He added: “It fell woefully short of the expectations required. He is the first one to say he should never had started that business.
“There were shortcomings in relation to his understanding and commitment to making it a safe work place.
“He took an old-fashioned view that it was a dirty business, but he shows genuine remorse.”