A COMPANY which runs New Cross's incinerator has been criticised for failing to protect a vulnerable worker who was severely burned with hot ash.

City of London Magistrates' Court heard how the employee sustained 17 per cent burns whilst cleaning ash from a filtration hopper at Veolia Environmental Services' Landmann Way plant on December 29 2009.

Ash fell onto him after he went into the hopper and started prodding it with a rod to clear a blockage. The burns he sustained left him hospitalised for a month.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident found Veolia did not follow its own policies and procedures for the management of dangerous tasks, putting a vulnerable worker at risk by failing to provide him with adequate information or supervision.

The court heard the eastern European employee spoke little English and had not been properly briefed in the plant's working practices.

Veolia pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act and was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £12,243 costs.

After the April 27 hearing, HSE inspector Kerry Williams said: "The victim was a vulnerable worker who should have been protected whilst working for Veolia.

"However, he wasn’t provided with the basic information, training or supervision to allow him to complete his job safely. As a result he was badly exposed and he sustained severe burns in an incident that could easily have been avoided.

"Veolia operates a high hazard site and as such should ensure its systems are sufficiently robust to ensure people are not placed at unnecessary risk."

A Veolia spokesman said: "We deeply regret this incident and the injuries sustained by the person concerned and immediately put in place changes to our operating procedures to further improve our safety systems relating to any work carried out by contractors on site.

"As a company we are committed to the highest standards of health and safety and this remains our first priority as is evidenced by continual improvements in our safety performance."