Stripping chemical caused man’s death in unventilated bathroom…
A bathroom restoration firm has been fined after an employee died as a result of inhaling toxic fumes while working in the bathroom of an apartment in South London.
The 55-year-old victim was attempting to strip a resin coating from a bath at the time of the incident on 16 June 2009 in Wandsworth. An investigation later revealed that the stripping-agent he was using contained dichloromethane which is a highly toxic chemical. The fumes rapidly overcome the man in the confined spaces of the bathroom and his bady was discovered by the tenant living in the flat later that day.
Southwark Crown Court was told that there was a lack of ventilation in the bathroom, especially for projects like the one the victim was carrying out, and his employer had been negligent in terms of providing him with some kind of artificial ventilation system.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into the fatality also discovered that the restoration company had written guidance that work using stripping chemicals should only be carried out in well-ventilated rooms. However they failed to act on their own advice and didn’t provide their employees with the necessary equipment to carry out their duties in a safe manner.
The Middlesex-based company was fined £25,000 and ordered to pay £56,286 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
HSE inspector Steve Kirton commented after the hearing:
“This is a shocking death resulting from totally inadequate ventilation in the enclosed bathroom space in which the victim had to operate.
“The risks associated with stripping agents containing dichloromethane are well known, yet he was exposed to lethal fumes with virtually no protection. Mechanical ventilation equipment is often a necessity, but all he had to rely on was a small open window, a basic mask and pot luck.
“The use of substances that create toxic fumes must only be used where the fumes cannot build up and affect people, and the work must be properly planned and supervised – none of which happened on this occasion.”
Author: Julian Roberts
Health and Safety News” updates newsletter, click here. The new ‘Health and Safety News’ section on our web site is updated daily with new, up to the minute stories. The stories are also released via Twitter – why not follow us on Twitter? and receive new stories as and when they happen?