Maintenance worker exposed to deadly gas at soft-drinks factory
A contractor was exposed to ozone gas while servicing equipment at the factory of an international soft-drinks manufacturer.
Loughborough Magistrates’ Court heard Hanovia Ltd was contracted to service UV equipment at Cott Beverages Ltd’s factory in Kegworth, Derby. On 26 July 2010, Hanovia employee Richard Sharp visited the site and was given a permit to work by Cott Beverages.
The 49-year-old entered the plant room but was not warned that there was ozone-producing equipment present. He was servicing UV equipment in the room when he began to feel breathless. He went outside and told an employee at the site that he felt unwell. He was offered a soft drink to help make him feel better, before he returned to continue the work.
However, he began to feel worse and went home, whereupon his wife advised him to contact a doctor. He was subsequently sent to hospital for treatment in the poisons unit. Mr Sharp was diagnosed with acute asthma, contracted as a result of his exposure at the factory. He has been unable to return to work as an engineer and struggles with day-to-day activities, on account of his high sensitivity to different chemicals and smells. Anything from perfume to exhaust fumes can trigger an asthma attack, so he now works from home answering telephone calls for Hanovia.
The HSE investigated the incident and identified the gas was leaking from an ozone-generating plant inside the room, owing to sensor probes not being securely sealed. Cott Beverages had been aware of the hazards of ozone since first installing generating equipment in 2001 to disinfect the liquid used in drinks.
The company failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks arising from the ozone-generating equipment, and failed to implement a safe system of work for servicing the equipment and associated alarms.
In addition, people on site were not adequately trained or supervised to safely issue work permits to the ozone room, and the company failed to implement a system to monitor and review the effectiveness of the permit-to-work system.
HSE inspector Richenda Dixon said: “Cott Beverages was aware of the hazards of ozone and knew there was a leak, but had done nothing to fix the problem, or protect their employees or contractors from coming into contact with this gas.
“As a result of the company’s failings, Richard’s quality of life has been severely affected and it is unlikely he will be able to return to his normal job. The company should have foreseen the risks and devised a safe way of working.”
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