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This avoidable death is why COSHH assessments are a necessity

A property maintenance firm and a flooring manufacturer have been fined a combined sum of £750,000 over the death of a floor layer in London.

03 June 2019

If you have ever wondered why it’s necessary to conduct COSHH assessments, then read on.

A property maintenance firm and a flooring manufacturer have been fined a combined sum of £750,000 over the death of a floor layer in London. While laying a floor in the bathroom, the employee used an adhesive containing dichloromethane (DCM) to fix the flooring into position. The chemical is an inhalation risk and is classed as a restricted substance under the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation. The 30-year-old was found dead on the floor by the homeowner, wearing what turned out to be a “completely ineffectual” face mask.

The flooring manufacturing company Altro admitted that it had failed to ensure that the product they supplied was safe to use, or at least as far as reasonably practicable. They pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and were fined £500,000, plus ordered to pay a further £34,773 in costs.

While the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said that the maintenance contractor did not have any systems or procedures in place to control the risks to its employees working in an enclosed space with the adhesive. It was found during the investigation that it was left up to the individual employees to decide what type respiratory protection was required or whether to wear it at all.

The undertaking of a simple COSHH assessment would have identified there was a hazard associated with this chemical and prevented this man’s death. An evaluation would have highlighted the need for a less hazardous adhesive to be used, or at least identified the correct type of respiratory protection required for working with the adhesive.

The tragedy is an example of why COSHH evaluations within your company are a necessity. Conducting COSHH assessments on the chemicals used by your employees will help to ensure their safety, and as long as they work in accordance with regulations then incidents and fatalities will be prevented.

If you require any assistance in undertaking COSHH assessments for substances used within your business, then please get in touch – we are here to help.

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