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Worker suffers life changing condition after company ignores ozone danger

A Kegworth soft drinks manufacturer has been fined after a contractor was exposed to ozone gas while servicing a UV light system in a plant room.

Richard Sharp, 49, from Wetherby, West Yorkshire, wasn't told that ozone was present in the room after being given a permit to work at Cott Beverages, on Sideley Road, and was overcome by the fumes.

His exposure on 26 July 2010 resulted in acute irritant asthma. Mr Sharp has been unable to return to work and struggles with day-to-day activities due to his high sensitivity to different chemicals and smells. Anything from perfume to exhaust fumes can trigger an asthma attack.

Loughborough Magistrates' Court heard today (12 November) that Cott Beverages Ltd was aware of the hazards of ozone since first installing generating equipment in 2001 to disinfect the liquid used in drinks.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks arising from the ozone generating equipment, and failed to implement a safe system of work for servicing the equipment and associated alarms.

In addition, people on site were not adequately trained or supervised to safely issue work permits to the ozone room, and the company failed to implement a system to monitor and review the effectiveness of the permit to work system.

Cott Beverages Ltd, of Citrus Grove, Sideley, Kegworth, Derby, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £20,000 and ordered it to pay costs of £11,565.

After the hearing HSE inspector Richenda Dixon said:

"Cott Beverages was aware of the hazards of ozone and knew there was a leak, but had done nothing to fix the problem or protect their employees or contractors from coming into contact with this gas.

"As a result of the company's failings Richard's quality of life has been severely affected and it is unlikely he will be able to return to his normal job.

"The company should have foreseen the risks and devised a safe way of working."

Richard Sharp said:

"My life is now very restricted. I can no longer carry out normal activities like taking the dog for a walk or wandering to the pub without worrying about what is round the corner, from a garden fire to chimney smoke to car fumes. They could all start the asthma. I struggle to go to people's houses as things like air fresheners, candles, strong perfumes, deodorants can all trigger an attack.

"My entire way of life has had to change. I feel like a prisoner in my own home.

"My career has ended. I had a secure enjoyable job and am now unable to return due to the acute Ozone induced irritant asthma. I now don't have daily contact with people and find it hard to face each day."

Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain's national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees."
  3. Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety."

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Updated 2012-11-12