A Lincolnshire agricultural machinery manufacturer has been fined after an impromptu visit by the Health and Safety Executive discovered staff were at risk of developing asthma through the spraying of a hazardous chemical.
Grantham Magistrates’ Court heard that Marston Agricultural Services Ltd allowed trailers to be doused with paints containing isocyanate without fully assessing the potential dangers of the chemical and implementing adequate controls to protect workers.
The company was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay a further £13,420 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Emma Madeley said: “Marston Agricultural Services failed to adequately control their employees’ exposure to hazardous chemicals over an extended period of time, despite having repeatedly received advice from HSE and others on the requirements of the Control Of Substances Hazardous to Health regulations.
“Breathing in isocyanate paint mist can cause asthma and paint sprayers are about 80 times more likely to get asthma than the average worker.
Ms Madeley said continued exposure “may lead to permanent and severe asthma” for which there is no cure.
She added: “In some cases sufferers also become unable to use common household chemicals such as cleaning materials and shampoo. Almost certainly, the sufferer would have to give up their current job.”
Personal protective equipment failings
The safety failings came to light after the HSE made an unannounced visit to the Lincolnshire company, on Toll Bar Road in Marston, on 20th June, 2011.
- Isocyanate-containing paint was being sprayed in large quantities
- Spray booths were not being used correctly and were in poor condition
- Respiratory personal protective equipment was provided
- However, workers’ overalls were ripped and gloves were not suitable
- Staff were reluctant to use hygiene facilities owing to their unhygienic condition
How to work safely with isocyanates
More information on how to control isocyanate exposure in spray booths and spray rooms is available at the HSE’s website.