Health and Safety – Lead Poisoning

A stained glass artist from Lincolnshire has been fined £18,000 after one of his employees suffered severe lead poisoning.

The employee had seven times the normal amount of lead in his blood as a result of restoring windows for Lincolnshire Stained Glass over a 5 year period, using techniques such as soldering, wire brushing and wire woolling.

On the 6th of February Lincoln Magistrates’ Court was told that Mr Doherty had been ill for many years before his diagnosis back in October 2011.  Mr Doherty had made complaints of nausea and tiredness; he was also prone to suffer with frequent infections and loss of appetite. It was only by chance that on another visit to his local surgery for another infection that the practice nurse asked where he worked and realised his illness could be lead poisoning.

Mr Doherty who has been unable to work since the diagnosis has had to leave his home in Lincolnshire to return to live with his family in Lancashire.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found that his employer David Sear, owner of Lincolnshire Stained Glass, failed to put precautions in place to protect his workers from lead.  Mr Sear had been advised of the requirement in 2005 when blood tests were carried out leading to advice from the HSE that showed workers were at significant risk of lead poisoning.

The investigation also revealed that there were no suitable dust extraction systems in place and that workers were not using masks when soldering, putting them at risk from lead fumes. Dust masks were provided for some activities but none of the six employees had been face-fitted for their respiratory protective equipment to ensure that it was suitable. The training provided was not adequate and they had not been advised about the risks and symptoms of lead poisoning.

The court heard that workers should have worn full overalls and been provided with clean and dirty changing areas, with overalls bagged and laundered on site. Overalls and other protective equipment should have been removed before eating, drinking or going home. Instead, some workers were only provided with aprons or disposable overalls, and some regularly went home wearing work clothes contaminated with lead, putting their families at risk of exposure.

David Sear pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 6(1) of the Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002 between 16 January 2010 and 13 October 2011 for failing to control the risk of lead exposure.  He was fined £18,000 and ordered to pay costs of the same amount.

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