Contractor developed acute irritant asthma after being overcome by ozone gas …
A maker of soft drinks has been fined after a contracted employee was exposed to dangerous ozone gas while repairing a UV light system at a plant in Kegworth.
The 49-year-old accident victim from West Yorkshire didn’t receive any warning about the presence of ozone gas in the room where he was working. He received a permit to undertake the repair work but shortly after entering the room he was overcome by the ozone fumes and collapsed.
The incident occurred in July 2010 and since then the contractor has been diagnosed with acute irritant asthma. He has been unable to resume working duties since the gas exposure as he has developed an intense sensitivity to various types of chemicals and smells and he now has difficulty even performing everyday activities as anything from perfume to exhaust fumes has the potential to trigger an asthma attack.
Loughborough Magistrates’ Court heard that the soft drinks manufacturer who contracted the man were aware of the potential risks associated with ozone gas since they installed equipment in the room in 2001 to disinfect some of the ingredients used in their drink products.
The subsequent investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident discovered that the company had failed to carry out a thorough risk assessment of the dangers poses by the ozone generated equipment and also had been negligent in implementing a safe working environment with regard to servicing the equipment and having a reliable alarm system in place.
The HSE also criticised the company for their inadequate training and supervision of their employees and the permit system which was not viewed as being of the necessary effectiveness.
The drinks company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £20,000 and ordered it to pay costs of £11,565.
HSE inspector Richenda Dixon spoke after the hearing:
“The company was aware of the hazards of ozone and knew there was a leak, but had done nothing to fix the problem or protect their employees or contractors from coming into contact with this gas.
“As a result of the company’s failings the victim’s quality of life has been severely affected and it is unlikely he will be able to return to his normal job.
“The company should have foreseen the risks and devised a safe way of working.”
The accident victim also commented:
“My life is now very restricted. I can no longer carry out normal activities like taking the dog for a walk or wandering to the pub without worrying about what is round the corner, from a garden fire to chimney smoke to car fumes. They could all start the asthma. I struggle to go to people’s houses as things like air fresheners, candles, strong perfumes, deodorants can all trigger an attack.
“My entire way of life has had to change. I feel like a prisoner in my own home.
“My career has ended. I had a secure enjoyable job and am now unable to return due to the acute Ozone induced irritant asthma. I now don’t have daily contact with people and find it hard to face each day.”
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