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Written by
on 19 November 2012

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A contractor, while doing servicing to equipment at a factory that manufactures soft-drinks internationally, was exposed to a deadly gas-ozone gas.

Loughborough Magistrates’ Court heard that Cott Beverages Ltd contracted Hanovia Ltd to service their UV equipment. The factory is based in Kegworth. On 26 July 2010, Richard Sharp, who is an employee of Hanovia Ltd, visited the site and Cott Beverages Ltd gave him a permit to work.

Mr. Sharp, who is 49 years old, entered the factory room where equipment that produces ozone gas was present. He was however not warned of its presence. As he was servicing the UV equipment inside the room, he started feeling breathless. He walked outside the room and told a worker at the company that he felt ill. In order to help in making him feel better, he was given a soft drink. Afterwards, he returned to the room to continue with the job.

Poison Exposure

However, he started feeling worse and went home when his wife advised Mr. Sharp to contact a doctor. Subsequently, he was sent to hospital to be treated in the poisons unit. The doctor diagnosed him with acute asthma, which was contracted due to his exposure at the plant. Mr. Sharp has not been able to go back to work. The former engineer now struggles with daily activities because he is highly sensitive to various chemicals and smells. Even a mere perfume and exhaust fumes can cause an asthma attack. Therefore, he now works indoors where he answers telephone calls for Hanovia Ltd.

The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive. They found out that inside the room, there was an ozone-generating plant where the gas leaked from. The equipment was not securely sealed hence the leaking. Cott Beverages Ltd knew the hazards of ozone after they installed the generating equipment in 2001. The equipment was used to disinfect the liquid that is used in the drinks.

Cott Beverages Ltd failed to assess suitably and sufficiently the risks associated with the ozone-generating equipment. The company also failed to employ a safe work system to service the equipment as well as the associated alarms.

Additionally, people on site did not possess the adequate training or supervision so as to issue work permits safely to the ozone room. Also, the factory failed to put in practice a system that would monitor and review effectively the system of permit-to-work.

Richenda Dixon, the HSE inspector said that Cott Beverages Ltd knew the hazards of ozone gas and was also aware of the leak but had not done anything to fix the problem. The company had also not protected their workers or contractors from contacting the deadly gas.

The inspector also said that resulting to the firm’s failings, the quality of life of Mr. Sharp had been affected severely and it was unlikely that he would go back to his normal work. He continued by saying that Cott Beverages Ltd should have anticipated the risks and thus implemented a safe manner of working.

About the author

David Cant is a Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME’s favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick. You can find him across social media on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.