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    APPRENTICE OVERCOME BY CHEMICAL VAPOUR

    Stripping operations lacked ventilation controls, RPE and training

    An alloy wheel refurbishment company has been sentenced after a 16-year-old apprentice worker was overcome by vapours from a chemical used in the stripping and cleaning of alloy wheels in December 2017.

    South Tyneside Magistrates heard how the young man entered the “acid room” to retrieve alloy wheels from one of three barrels of a chemical substance containing Dichloromethane (DCM), Methanol and Hydrofluoric Acid used in the stripping process. He was later found by a colleague slumped unconscious over a barrel.

    Could have easily resulted in death

    HSE investigators found that the risk assessment for the chemical wheel stripping process was not suitable or sufficient. Appropriate control measures should have included suitable exhaust ventilation in the room as well as respiratory protective equipment (RPE) for the employees.

    RPE was provided but it was not maintained in an efficient or effective state. Several parts of it were damaged and the air feed to it from the compressor was not filtered correctly.

    The investigation found that on this occasion, and previously, the employee was not wearing the RPE when he entered the room.

    Employees were not provided with suitable and sufficient information, instruction, and training with regards to the risks involved with using the chemicals, particularly the risks involved with using DCM.

    • Wheelnut Ltd – of Whickham Bank, Swalwell, Newcastle upon pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £32,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £1718.50.

    Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Joy Craighead said:

    “A young worker suffered a potentially serious injury. Breathing in DCM vapour can produce narcotic effects and, at high concentrations, unconsciousness and death. In this instance, the boy made a full recovery, but it could have easily resulted in his death.”

     

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