A boat manufacturer has been fined after an employee suffered chemical burns while using a solvent to clean a boat.

The worker was using a cloth soaked in dichloromethane to wipe the deck when he began to feel light-headed.

On taking a short break, the employee knelt down inside the boat to further clean it. But he collapsed and was later found by colleagues lying in a pool of dichloromethane.

Numerous failings

An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found the company had failed to:

  • put in place suitable controls when using dichloromethane to clean inside boats
  • provide local exhaust ventilation, suitable respiratory protection or personal protective equipment
  • carry out an adequate risk assessment for dichloromethane
  • provide employees with sufficient instruction and training on using dichloromethane

Humber Fabrications (Hull) Ltd pleaded guilty to breaking the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

It was fined £10,300 with £2,214 in costs.

Incredibly hazardous 

The HSE say the case reinforces the importance of controlling the risks associated with using dichloromethane.

It described dichloromethane as ‘incredibly hazardous’ and said the substance should be substituted for less harmful alternative products that do the same job.

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