UK health and safety regulator drops Drax prosecution

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A prosecution against the owners of the UK's largest power station has been dropped by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), it has been announced.
The UK's Health and Safety Executive, the government agency responsible for the encouragement, regulation and enforcement of workplace health and safety, had alleged failings at the plant. These related to workers' exposure to wood dust, with five employees developing asthma.
Drax Power denied the allegations, and legal proceedings by HSE began after it was told about the affected employees in 2015. The regulator investigated the control of exposure to wood dust present in biomass.
HSE said a causal link between the occupational asthma and handling of the biomass could not be established to the criminal standard.
The BBC reported that new information from Drax surrounding the design and commissioning of infrastructure at the North Yorkshire power station showed it "intended to minimise" workers' exposure to the dust.
As the matter progressed to trial, further expert evidence had been provided by the defence, HSE said.
That evidence undermined the original prosecution evidence leading to HSE deciding to discontinue the prosecution.
During the investigation, HSE served two improvement notices relating to the control of biomass dust, which Drax complied with, it said.
A HSE spokesperson 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."

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