Altro Ltd, a supplier, and T Brown Group Ltd, a flooring company, have both been sentenced following the death of a floor layer in London who was exposed to dicholormethane-containing flooring adhesive.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that on 4 September 2015, 30-year-old Paul Tilcock was found deceased by the owner of house in Mitcham on the bathroom floor. The adhesive used to fix the flooring contained a large amount of dichloromethane.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the flooring company had not implemented any systems or procedures adequately to control the risks to its employees from working in an enclosed space with a substance known to be hazardous to health, namely dichloromethane. The decision on whether to wear respiratory protective equipment (RPE) or on what type of RPE should be used was left up to employees. When Mr Tilcock’s body was found he was wearing an ineffectual face mask.

Altro who supplied the adhesive, was found not to have ensured so far as reasonably practicable that the product supplied was safe to use at all times.

T Brown Group Ltd of High Street, Ewell, Surrey pleaded guilty to a breach under s.2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 (HSWA). The company was fined £250,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £23,936. Altro Ltd of Works Road, Letchworth, Herts pleaded guilty to a breach under s.6(4) of the HSWA. The company was fined £500,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £34,773.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Peter Collingwood said: “This tragic incident which has had a devastating effect on a young family was wholly avoidable. It is important that companies have an appreciation of their duties, (whether to its employees or its customers) and have effective systems and procedures in place to ensure that those duties are fulfilled”.

The HSE states that with regard to RPE, employers are required to “Assess the risks presented by exposure to hazardous substances. Then identify the steps needed to adequately control the risks; put them into operation and ensure they remain effective.”

If RPE is determined to be required as one of the control measures, employers must:

  • select the RPE that is right for the hazardous substance, the environment in which it is going to be used, the task and the wearer

  • inform and train RPE users

  • ensure RPE is maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instruction

  • supervise RPE wearers to ensure that they are using the RPE in accordance to manufacturer’s instruction and the training provided

  • safely dispose of damaged or used RPE and its components, taking note of waste handlers’ heath and safety.

Last reviewed 6 June 2019