Two companies have been fined after a floor layer died on a job. The worker was found by the owner of the London house he was working in. He had been working in a bathroom with an adhesive that contained a significant amount of a toxic substance, and was found wearing an ineffectual face mask. The company he worked for, T Brown Group Ltd, was fined £250,000. The supplier of the adhesive, Altro Limited, was fined £500,000.
The fatality was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Inspectors found that Altro Limited had not made sure, as far as was reasonably practicable, that the supplied product was safe to use at all times. It was also established that T Brown Group Ltd had not put in place suitable procedures to control risks to its employees from hazardous substances when working in enclosed spaces. The wearing of face masks – and the type of respiratory protection used – was also left to employees to decide on.
5 tips to help protect workers in the vicinity of hazardous substances:
- Do a risk assessment (COSHH) for hazardous substances that your workers come into contact with. Look at how workers could be affected by each harmful substance, for example if they breathed it in, or if it came into contact with their skin.
- Use the manufacturer’s safety data sheet to help identify what could go wrong, and to learn the best controls that they suggest, such as a certain type of face mask or skin protection to use. Use this information to help assess what needs to be implemented for the work activities in which you use the substance.
- Aim to prevent worker exposure by removing the need to use hazardous substances, or if that is not possible, substitute them for less hazardous products.
- Always aim to control the exposure at source where possible. Use extraction and ventilation systems, and regularly check that these systems work properly by inspecting them and servicing them as appropriate.
- Consider carefully which substances can be used in enclosed areas – if workers could be overcome by fumes given off by a particular substance then make sure this substance is only used in well ventilated areas, and in the smallest quantities possible.
Duty holders must look at the risks posed by hazardous substances, and take the necessary action to either remove or reduce those risks by putting in place the correct controls. Take the time today to check that your systems and procedures in relation to hazardous substances are robust.