A car worker, aged 33, who died after inhaling fumes while cleaning a chemical paint stripping tank was found to have received neither formal training nor personal protection equipment from his company employer.
The employee’s duties at the car firm, which specialises in restoring alloy wheels, included removing and replacing tyres, and placing alloy wheels in and out of a chemical stripping tank. The young man had been attempting to remove debris caused by the stripping process from within the tank but was overcome by the intense vapours of the toxic methane solvent.
He was found by co-workers wearing just a face mask, slumped unconscious against the side of the tank. Despite attempts at resuscitation, the worker failed to revive and was later pronounced dead.
Inadequate to protect from the toxic fumes
A subsequent Health & Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the worker had not been issued with overalls or any other protective clothing other than a mask, which was inadequate to protect him from the toxic fumes. He had gone into the tank wearing trainers, tracksuit bottoms, a t-shirt and a fleece. The HSE also discovered that no formal training had been given to the employee on the use of the chemical stripping tank and the chemical agent used by the company. Instead he was given “on the job” training.
The car firm owners were fined £50,000, after pleading guilty to offences under Section 2(1) and 33(1)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
Under Control of Substances Hazardous To Health (COSHH), employers are legally required to control substances, which are hazardous to health and prevent exposure by carrying out risk assessments and providing information, instruction and training for employees and others.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) should always be used whenever there’s a risk of an injury. The correct type of face / breathing mask must be used as each is effective for only a limited range of substances. Breathing apparatus will be necessary in a confined space or where there is a lack of adequate oxygen in the work area.