Company fined after hazardous chemical death on site

  • Business Advice
Company fined after hazardous chemical death on site
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

A powder-coating company has been fined £67,000 following a fatal incident where an employee died of exposure to hazardous substances.

George Setchfield, 21, was an employee of Electrostatic Magic Limited, a company specialising in powder coating for metals. He was found by his manager, unconscious over the side of a large container, while working at their Peterborough site.

Mr Setchfield had entered the stripping shed (for removing coatings from metals) where there was an Intermediate Bulk Container (IBC) containing alloy wheel stripper.

George could not be revived, as he had sustained multiple organ failure, chemical pneumonitis and cutaneous burns from exposure to dichloromethane, hydrofluoric acid and methanol. This exposure to toxic chemicals caused his death.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated Electrostatic Magic Limited, finding that the company had failed to control exposure to dichloromethane and hydrofluoric acid.

Dichloromethane can cause carbon monoxide poisoning and impaired functions, as well as organ and nervous system failure. Hydrofluoric acid is also poisonous and corrosive – it causes severe skin burns and eye damage and is fatal when inhaled or ingested.

Given the high risk nature of the substances used on site, HSE expected to see local exhaust ventilation (LEV) installed in the stripping shed, or use of hoists / long-handled tools to handle parts being stripped of their coating.

There would not have been a need to lean into the IBC unit if the company had provided pumped chemical systems. Additionally, no suitable PPE or RPE was being provided for employees.

Electrostatic Magic Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 7(1) of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 and Article 67 of the REACH regulation. On 19 January 2024, they were fined £67,000 and £7,231 in legal costs at Peterborough Magistrates’ Court.

Speaking afterward, HSE Inspector Tom Pouncey commented:

“Our thoughts today are with the family of Mr Setchfield, a young man, who should have returned home safely to his family at the end of his working day, but because of the failings of Electrostatic Magic Limited, he did not, and his family are understandably heartbroken.”

“Awareness within the alloy wheel stripping industry of the importance of using appropriate control measures and the dangers of this cold stripping process needs to improve.

“Companies need to understand the dangers of working with hazardous chemicals and ensure employees are not unnecessarily exposed. Deaths can result from working with Dichloromethane-based stripping fluids.

“HSE will be inspecting businesses carrying out similar work to ensure suitable health and safety arrangements are in place. If they are not then HSE will take appropriate action.”

Visit BrAInbox today where you can find answers to questions like How can I protect my workers from metalworking fluid hazards?

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