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Family of man killed by fumes could sue employer

Family of man killed by fumes could sue employer

The family of a man who died after inhaling toxic fumes while working for his employer could launch a compensation claim.

Colin Pocock, 55, was in an apartment in south west London to paint and varnish a resin coating from a bath before being overcome by fumes and dying.

The worker's body was discovered by the occupant of the apartment, who phoned an ambulance before the man was pronounced dead.

An investigation launched by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the stripping agent provided by Multicrest, Mr Pocock's employers, had large quantities of dichloromethane - a toxic chemical.

It is believed Mr Pocock did not adequately aerate the room he was working in, which led to a buildup of deadly substances potent enough to kill him relatively quickly.

Best practice documentation provided by Multicrest instructed Mr Pocock to properly ventilate areas he worked in, but no equipment was provided to help him do this - with managers unaware of what safety measures needed to be taken in private apartment bathrooms such as where its employee died.

Multicrest of Castle Business Village in Middlesex has been 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.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Steve Kirton said: "This is a shocking death resulting from totally inadequate ventilation in the enclosed bathroom space in which Colin Pocock had to operate.

"The risks associated with stripping agents containing dichloromethane are well known, yet he was exposed to lethal fumes with virtually no protection. Mechanical ventilation equipment is often a necessity, but all he had to rely on was a small open window."

Mr Kirton also said if companies were to use the substances Mr Pocock did, they should be supervised and planned heavily, with neither of these two requirements met by Multicrest on this occasion.

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Posted by Francesca Witney