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UTILITIES CONTRACTOR FAILED TO CONTROL ISOCYANTE

Painting spraying operations exposed workman to asthma causing substance  

Laing O’Rourke Utilities Ltd has been fined after a workman suffered prolonged exposure to a hazardous substance. Peter Johnson, aged 48, from Exeter, suffered sore skin around his face after several weeks of exposure to isocyanate between July and August 2007.

The exposure occurred during the repainting of joints along a raised gas pipeline near Ivybridge in Devon. Mr Johnson was driving an open-cabbed vehicle and attached paint sprayer using paint containing isocyanate. The chemical is the second largest cause of occupational asthma, and can also cause conjunctivitis, dermatitis, bronchitis and rhinitis.

The open cab caused periodic exposure to the paint aerosol. Proper protective equipment was not provided and exposure may have been up to ten times the workplace limit for isocyanate.

It was after his skin started to feel sore that Mr Johnson contacted HSE and an investigation was launched.

Safer application method required

Torquay Magistrates’ Court heard how Laing O’Rourke Utilities Ltd had failed to ensure exposure to isocyanate was prevented or adequately controlled. The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 7(1) of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 and was ordered to pay a £4,000 fine and £15,062 in costs.

HSE Inspector, Jonathan Harris, said:

“Isocyanate is subject to workplace exposure limits because of its ability to damage workers’ health. The company was required by law to ensure those at risk of exposure were adequately protected yet it clearly failed to do so by failing to provide a safe system of work.

Although the type of work meant there was no alternative to the type of paint being used, it could have been applied with a brush, instead of by spraygun, thereby removing the risk of exposing Mr Johnson to an air contaminant containing isocyanate.”

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