Firm sentenced after worker dies after inhaling paint stripper

An employer has been fined after a worker died after inhaling fumes while cleaning a chemical stripping paint tank at a motor vehicle repair company.

the section Tayside and Central Scotland

Picture from BBC From the section Tayside and Central Scotland

Dundee Sheriff Court heard how on 18 August 2011, Steven Conway, 33, from Dundee, was employed by Diamond Wheels (Dundee) Limited to undertake general duties at its Dryburgh Industrial Estate, premises.

These duties included collections and deliveries, removing and replacing tyres, and moving alloy wheels into, and out of, the chemical stripping tank.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found Mr Conway was provided with no formal training in respect of the use of the chemical stripping tank and the chemical stripping agent used by the company. Instead he was given ‘on the job’ training.

The court heard Mr Conway, was overcome by dichloromethane vapour while attempting to remove stripping debris from within the chemical stripping tank and died as a result of his exposure to those vapours.

Mr Conway, a 33-year-old father of two, was sent in to remove debris created from the process of stripping wheels using a chemical known as EFX Strip.

That chemical contains methlyene chloride, methanol and hydrofluoric acid and is described as a “highly volatile organic compound”.

Mr Conway went in to the tank wearing trainers, tracksuit bottoms, a t-shirt and a fleece.

He was not provided with overalls or any other protective clothing – and wore a mask that did nothing to protect him from the toxic fumes let off by the chemicals.

Diamond Wheels (Dundee) Limited, of Nethergate, Dundee, was 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.

Fiscal depute Emma Stewart told the court:

“Mr Conway was found wearing the face mask, kneeling inside the stripping tank. He was slumped against the side of the tank and appeared to be unconscious.”

Mr Marr and another colleague removed Mr Conway from the tank and tried to resuscitate him. He was later pronounced dead.

A subsequent post-mortem examination found he had suffered chemical burns to his thighs, knees, shins and feet “typical of chemical burns from contact with hydrofluoric acid”.

Pathologists concluded he had died from inhaling industrial paint stripper.

Defence advocate Gavin Anderson said the company had undertaken extensive efforts to adhere strictly to health and safety standards since Mr Conway’s death.

Mr Anderson said: “I express publicly in open court that Mr Conway’s tragic death is genuinely and deeply regretted by all associated with the company.”