Sheffield workers overcome by carbon monoxide fumes

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THREE Sheffield workers could have died when a decontamination unit began to fill with deadly carbon monoxide, a court heard.

Richard McKearnen, aged 59, Tony Deakin, 50, and Paul Wainwright, 49, were working in an asbestos enclosure on a demolition site in Huddersfield in November 2009. After working for 90 minutes, each left the enclosure to go one at a time through a three-stage decontamination unit.

Huddersfield Magistrates’ Court heard the workers would begin at the ‘dirty end’ of the unit where they would dispose of overalls, before entering a second stage which included showers and the chance to wash their respiratory equipment, finishing with ‘clean’ section where they would change into normal clothes.

Health and Safety Executive prosecutors told magistrates the three men were nearly overcome by dizziness and nausea when the unit began to fill with carbon monoxide.

All three were sent to hospital where tests showed they had suffered carbon monoxide poisoning. They were treated with high-flow oxygen therapy at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and released later the same day.

The court heard the unit used a gas boiler to provide hot water for the shower. Tests on the boiler showed it had been poorly maintained meaning it was pumping out high levels of carbon monoxide.

Newlincs Services Ltd, of Dudley Street, Grimsby - the contractor and owner of the unit - pleaded guilty to breaching the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974. The company was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £3,580 in costs.

HSE Inspector David Stewart said: “Carbon monoxide can be a silent killer in the home and, as this case demonstrates, also in the workplace.

“The consequences of longer exposure could have been fatal.

“It is essential that any appliances such as gas boilers and heaters are maintained on a regular basis.”

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