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August 29, 2013

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FM firm failed to assess chemical risks


A facilities management company has been fined £12,000 after a plumber suffered serious chemical burns while working in a café.
Linaker Ltd appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on 27 August following an investigation by environmental-health officers from the City of Edinburgh Council.
The plumber, who does not wish to be named, was working on a choked hand basin in a café at the Hilton Hotel in Edinburgh Airport on 20 November 2009. After unsuccessfully trying to unblock the drain using mechanical means, he purchased some drain cleaner and applied it to the choked drain. The product leaked on to the floor where he was kneeling, and soaked into his trousers.
He had not been provided with a safety data sheet for the use of the chemical, and hadn’t received any training on its use from his employer, so was unaware of the risks involved and the necessary precautions when handling such products.
The following day he realised the extent of his injuries and subsequently spent nine days in a specialist burns unit, where he required skin grafts and months of aftercare.
The investigation found that no assessment had been carried out in accordance with COSHH Regulations 2002, and no procedures were in place for controlling the use and purchase of hazardous substances by employees.
The company admitted failing to assess the risks arising from the use of such substances, failing to prevent its employee’s exposure to such substances, and failing to ensure that the employee had received information, instruction and training in relation to such substances.
Linaker Ltd was fined £12,000 after pleading guilty to a charge under s2 of the HSWA. No costs are awarded in Scotland.
Councillor Lesley Hinds said: “This incident shows the potential dangers of working with hazardous substances. The plumber’s injuries were severe and completely avoidable. Employers must carry out proper risk assessments and provide employees with information, instruction and training.”
Linaker Ltd entered an early guilty plea and the fine was reduced from £18,000 to £12,000 on account of this. The company has no previous convictions and cooperated fully with the investigation. Following the incident the firm carried out a sufficient COSHH risk assessment, and tightened up training and induction procedures for employees.

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10 years ago

If this really happened as the report states, no wonder this “plumber” does not want to be named. Time and time again I see these reports and there is no responsibility attributed to the employee, it is all to the employer. This should never be a prosecution unless the employer handed the chemical to him in a plain bottle. There must have been warning marks on the label.

It’s this sort of rubbish that turns people against H&S and fuels the “nanny state” argument.

10 years ago

Unfortunately Ken, this is how our culture works.

You might argue that the employer should have trained the plumber & highlighted the risks of using ANY chemicals & stated that they must not use any substance without authorisation & proper procedure. In law the prosecution is valid. The fine however seems a bit steep. That money could have been put to better use training the companies employees about risk, coshh & so on

10 years ago

Lynton48, I agree in part with your comments however the emloyer canot be expected to train his employees with regrads to risks he may not be aware of ‘unforseeable risks’ if the substance wasn’t approved by the company it wasnot authorised for use.

What about a caveat from the employer;

‘No equipment or substance to be used unless authrised by your direct manager’

10 years ago

“he purchased some drain cleaner and applied it to the choked drain. ”

So how was his employer supposed to do an assessment?

10 years ago

He bought the stuff in a shop, how can his employer do an assessment?