Firms fined after death of worker from toxic fumes

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A supplier and a flooring company have been fined following the death of a worker from toxic fumes.

Floor layer Paul Tilcock, 30, was found dead on the bathroom floor by the owner of a house in Mitcham, London, on September 4, 2015.

The adhesive used to fix the flooring contained a large amount of toxic substance, Westminster Magistrates’ Court was told.

An HSE investigation found that T Brown Group Ltd had not adequately implemented procedures to control the risks to employees from working in an enclosed space with dichloromethane, a substance known to be hazardous to health.

The decision on whether to wear face masks or what type of respiratory protection should be used was left up to employees. 

When Mr Tilcock’s body was found he was wearing an ineffectual face mask.

Altro Limited, the flooring company who supplied the adhesive, was found not to have ensured that the product supplied was safe to use at all times.

T Brown Group Ltd of High Street, Ewell, Surrey admitted Health and Safety breaches and was fined £250,000 and ordered to pay costs of £23,936.

Altro Limited of Works Road, Letchworth, Herts also admitted breaches and was fined £500,000 with costs of £34,773.

Afterwards, HSE inspector Peter Collingwood said: “This tragic incident which has had a devastating effect on a young family was wholly avoidable. 

“It is important that companies have an appreciation of their duties, (whether to employees or customers) and have effective systems and procedures in place to ensure that those duties are fulfilled.”

  • Many workers are made ill each year by hazardous substances. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health law (COSHH) requires employers to control such substances.
  • Risks can be reduced significantly if managers and workers understand them and take appropriate action. EP Risk Consultancy’s COSHH Awareness Course offers an effective way of explaining the risks and the steps that can be taken to manage them.