AgChemAccess is suing the Health and Safety Executive for £2m for issuing “illegal” enforcement notices that stopped the company trading agrochemicals for two months – and nearly forced the company out of business.
The HSE brought the Norwich company’s international agrochemical trade to a standstill for two months this summer after it wrongly ordered movement restrictions on the whole of its UK-held stock.
An HSE investigator who inspected third-party warehouses holding stock belonging to AgChemAccess issued the company with a series of enforcement notices on 11 July.
He believed the company was breaching safety regulations and enforced a two-month movement ban on its UK-held stock.
However, on 29 August, following successful judicial review proceedings, the inspector accepted that he had no reasonable grounds to issue the enforcement notices and these were quashed.
Nicholas Gooch, director of AgChemAccess, said the HSE’s blunder nearly put his company out of business.
“We were hounded relentlessly by a HSE investigator who nearly closed the company down,” said Mr Gooch, who has also vowed to recover in the region of£150,000 in court costs.
“Problems, which were not our fault, were found with a particular consignment that had been shipped to us and those were resolved.
“The inspector went into one of our bonded warehouses for products we were bringing into the UK to then ship out of the UK again.”
AgChemAccess brings products into the UK which are checked for quality control, labelled and packaged before they are shipped onwards all over Europe and beyond.
“On this occasion, aluminium phosphide which was being brought through the UK to send out to Africa had been stored incorrectly by a third-party warehouse, which was picked up in a routine fire service inspection,” Mr Gooch explained.
“The product should have been stored in a metal container but it had been put on a racking system.
“The fire service informed the HSE who served us with enforcement notices.
“The HSE did not engage with us in any way to try to resolve the problem. They just simply put a blanket on us.”
One of the notices concerned a consignment of glyphosate that had been incorrectly packed and sent to AgChemAccess.
The blanket ban resulted in AgChemAccess removing 10 of its 70 workers as the company tried desperately to stay solvent.
“I came within two weeks of having to pay off all of my staff and fold,” said Mr Gooch.
“I came within two weeks of having to pay off all of my staff and fold.”
Nicholas Gooch, AgChemAccess
“Our UK and international reputation has suffered. We have long-standing customers who have gone elsewhere because we could not deliver to them. Potential new contracts have also been lost.”
AgChemAccess is an international agrochemical supplier, throughout Europe, Africa and the Caribbean, that supplies the farming industry with plant protection products.
The company imports crop protection products into the UK, which are tested, packaged and labelled to comply with overseas legislation before they are exported.
AgChemAccess owns 850 product registrations with a range of crop protection products, covering all major crops, substituting existing R&D products with generic alternatives where possible.
A spokesman for the HSE said: “The HSE is looking into the background to the judicial review case and will respond in due course.”
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