Safety fine for worker's chemical burn

A facilities management company has been fined £12,000 after a worker suffered serious chemical burns.

Linaker Ltd pleaded guilty at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on 27 August 2013 to a charge under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 in connection with an incident at the Hilton Hotel, Edinburgh Airport on 20 November 2009.

A plumber was carrying out work on a choked wash hand basin at a café in the hotel when drain cleaner he was using leaked onto the floor where he was kneeling. He had not been provided with any safety data for the use of the cleaner or been told to ask for this from the supplier, nor had he received any training on its use from his employer. He was therefore unaware of the risks involved and the appropriate precautions to be taken when using the product.

He did not realise how serious his injuries were until the following day and he subsequently spent nine days in a specialist burns unit and months of aftercare.

Linaker Ltd pled guilty to failing to assess the risks arising from the use of such substances, failing to prevent their employee’s exposure to such substances, and failing to ensure that their employee had received information, instruction and training in relation to the use of such substances.

The court case followed an accident investigation by environmental health officers from the City of Edinburgh Council.

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 pleaded guilty to a charge under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 Section 2 and was fined £12,000, reduced from £18,000 on account of the early plea. 

Health and safety legislation is enforced by either Councils or the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) depending on the premises and work activity in question.

Councils are responsible for shops, catering establishments, offices, hotels, residential care homes, leisure and entertainment facilities. HSE is responsible for factories, construction sites, hospitals and nursing homes, agricultural activities, educational establishments, hospitals, fairgrounds.

In Scotland the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has sole responsibility for the raising of criminal proceedings for breaches of health and safety legislation.

Further information on the control of substances hazardous to health (COSHH) is on the HSE website http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/index.htm.

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