Wood Treatment Limited and its Managing Director, George Boden, have been sentenced at Chester Crown Court after pleading guilty to offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA) 1974. Wood Treatment Limited was given a £75,000 fine for breaching HSWA S2, in failing to protect its employees from the risk of fire. George Boden, 64, from Stockport, was sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for 18 months. He was also handed a £12,000 fine and banned from being a company director for four years.
He had previously admitted that the health and safety offence against the company was committed with his consent, connivance or neglect as Managing Director of Wood Treatment Limited (Health and Safety at Work Act, Section 37). The sentencing was the culmination of a three month trial involving the company, Director George Boden, Operations Manager Phillip Smith, 58, from Macclesfield, and Mill Manager Peter Shingler, 56, from Bosley. In April, Justice May ordered the charges of corporate manslaughter and gross negligence be discontinued and directed the jury to find Phillip Smith and Peter Shingler, not guilty of any charges. The charges related to a devastating explosion at the mill in the village on 17 July 2015 in which Derek Moore, 62, Dorothy Bailey, 62, Jason Shingler, 38, and Will Barks, 51, tragically lost their lives. Others were seriously injured, and the sheer scale and impact of the explosion and the loss of lives that resulted, devastated the local community. A joint investigation was launched between Cheshire Constabulary and the Health and Safety Executive, assisted by Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service. Detective Chief Inspector Paul Hughes, who led the police investigation, said: “The incident that day tore the heart out of the local community and resulted in a long and exhausting journey for those who lost loved ones and also those who suffered life-changing injuries. “Following the incident our teams worked tirelessly to provide an extensive file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service who authorised the charges and a trial began in January. “The families will never forget what happened that day and while this is not the outcome that they had hoped for I hope that this will, in some way, help to bring some form of closure for them. “We’d ask the media to respect their privacy as they come to terms with the conclusion of this case.” Sally Nicholson, Head of Operations for the North West, HSE, said: “Wood Treatment Ltd and its Director failed to ensure the health and safety of their employees, exposing them on a daily basis to the risk of a wood dust explosion, through lack of appropriate assessment and control. “The company and Mr Boden in his capacity as Managing Director, have rightly been held to account for these significant failings.”