Monday 27 May 2013

Person killed by dichloromethane fumes

A worker has died after inhaling dichloromethane fumes.
The circumstances were:

  • Colin Pocock was using an industrial paint and varnish remover to strip a resin coating from a bath in the bathroom of  a housing association property in Wandsworth on 16 June 2009.
  • The stripping agent contained dichloromethane, also known as methylene chloride, a carcinogenic toxic chemical. 
  • Fumes rapidly built up in the confined space and he died at the scene as a result of over exposure.
The HSE investigation found:
  • There was insufficient natural ventilation in the bathroom. 
  • Mr Pocock's employer, Multicrest Ltd, a franchisee of Renubath Services Ltd, should have provided mechanical ventilation equipment to compensate.
  • Written documentation from Multicrest stated that work of this nature should only be done in well ventilated areas, but no equipment was provided to employees. 
  • Managers were unaware of how work needed to be done in bathrooms and failed to provide adequate safe working arrangements.
Multicrest Ltd., was fined £81,286 (inc. costs).

The HSE inspector said:
"This is a shocking death resulting from totally inadequate ventilation in the enclosed bathroom space in which Colin Pocock 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."

The sentencing at Southwark Crown Court follows an earlier prosecution of Renubath Services Ltd, Multicrest's franchising company, for identical failings linked to inadequate ventilation arrangements.

Source: HSE LSE/13

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