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Company sentenced for exposing worker to deadly fumes

A bath restoration company has been fined for safety failings after a worker died from inhaling toxic fumes in the bathroom of a South West London flat.

Colin Pocock, 55, was using an industrial paint and varnish remover to strip a resin coating from a bath at a housing association property in Eton Close, Wandsworth, when he was overcome by fumes on 16 June 2009.

The stripping agent contained dichloromethane, also known as methylene chloride, a carcinogenic toxic chemical. Fumes rapidly built up in the confined space and he died at the scene as a result of over exposure. His body was discovered by the occupant of the flat, who does not wish to be identified.

Southwark Crown Court heard today (23 May) that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the death and found there was insufficient natural ventilation in the bathroom. Mr Pocock’s employer, Multicrest Ltd, a franchisee of Renubath Services Ltd, should have provided mechanical ventilation equipment to compensate.

HSE found written documentation from Multicrest stating that work of this nature should only be done in well ventilated areas, but no equipment was provided to employees. Managers were unaware of how work needed to be done in bathrooms and failed to provide adequate safe working arrangements.

Multicrest Ltd, of Castle Business Village, Station Road, Hampton, Middlesex, was fined £25,000 and ordered to pay £56,286 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

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