Fines & Costs of £812K Following Death Whilst Laying Floor Adhesive

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No systems or procedures had been implemented to adequately control the risks to the health and safety of employees.

Author: Ernie Taylor
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A supplier and a flooring company have both been sentenced following the death of a floor layer in London Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that on 4 September 2015, 30-year-old Paul Tilcock was found dead on the bathroom floor by the owner of a house in Mitcham. The adhesive used to fix the flooring contained a large amount of a toxic substance.

Investigation by HSE Inspectors found that T Brown Group Ltd. had not implemented any systems or procedures to adequately control the risks to the health and safety of its employees when working in an enclosed space with a substance known to be hazardous to health, namely dichloromethane. The decision as whether to wear respiratory protective equipment (RPE) or what type of RPE should be used was left up to employees. When Mr Tilcock’s body was found he was wearing a completely ineffectual face mask.

T Brown Group Ltd of High Street, Ewell, Surrey pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (the Act). The company was fined £250,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £23,936.

Altro Limited, the company supplying the flooring adhesive, was found not to have ensured so far as reasonably practicable that the product as supplied was safe to use at all times. Altro Ltd. pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 6 (4) of the Act 1974. The company was fined £500,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £34,773.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Peter Collingwood said: “This tragic incident which has had a devastating effect on a young family was wholly avoidable. It is important that companies have an appreciation of their duties, (whether to its employees or its customers) and have effective systems and procedures in place to ensure that those duties are fulfilled”.

NOTE: This very sad case demonstrates the need on Employers to carry out task-specific risk assessments. In this case working in an enclosed work area (the bathroom of a domestic property) with a product that was known to be a hazardous substance (therefore a COSHH Assessment was needed). The case also highlights the need for information; instruction and training when working with hazardous products (the flooring adhesive) and the same as regards the provision of suitable PPE (in this case the requirement for suitable RPE.). Exposure to harmful levels of any dusts, fumes, vapours, mists, gases that are a consequence or the work done (or due to the product being used) must be adequately addressed. RPE should not always be the employers first consideration. Once again, a family has been devastated by the loss of a young father, a death that was wholly avoidable.

Ernie Taylor

Health & Safety Consultant

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