A company that manufactures and repairs rigid-inflatable boats (RIBs) in Hull, Yorkshire, has been sentenced after one of its workers was overcome by solvent fumes and sustained burns when he collapsed in a pool of the substance.
The employee of Humber Fabrications (Hull) was using a cloth soaked in dichloromethane to clean the deck of a RIB on 23 March 2016.
Hull and Holderness Magistrates’ Court was told that the worker felt light-headed and took a five-minute break before carrying on with the job. He fell unconscious and was found some time later by his colleagues lying in a pool of dichloromethane (DCM).
He was taken by ambulance to Hull Royal Infirmary, where he was treated for chemical burns to his right arm and back.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company had failed to implement suitable control measures for employees cleaning the inside of boats.
It found the factory did not have a local exhaust ventilation system and the company had not given its workers respiratory protective equipment.
In addition, it had failed to carry out an adequate risk assessment for the use of DCM and there was a lack of instruction and training for those using the solvent.
DCM is a well-established inhalation hazard. Overexposure can lead to dizziness, nausea and headaches and, in some cases, loss of consciousness and even coma. DCM is also metabolised by the body to carbon monoxide potentially causing carbon monoxide poisoning.
Humber Fabrications pleaded guilty to breaching s 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act and was fined £10,300 plus £2,214 costs.
HSE inspector James Harvey said: “This case reinforces the importance of controlling the risks associated with the use of dichloromethane, which is an incredibly hazardous substance. HSE promotes substituting dichloromethane for less harmful alternative products which do the same job.”