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NHS Trust and Imperial College London fined after death of worker

Date:
12 December 2017

Chelsea & Westminster NHS Trust and Imperial College London have been fined after the death of a lone worker.

Southwark Crown Court heard how Damian Bowen was asphyxiated whilst working with liquid nitrogen at St Stephens Centre Laboratory, Fulham Road, London owned by Chelsea & Westminster NHS Trust. He lost his life whilst decanting liquid nitrogen which he was using to freeze blood samples for transport.

Imperial College London undertook work for the International Aids Vaccine Institute in the rooms it occupied in the same laboratory suite. Imperial College London rented the room and owned the liquid nitrogen store there.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident, which occurred on 23 October 2011, found the local exhaust ventilation provided to extract dangerous substances, such as liquid nitrogen, had been switched off.

The investigation found that Mr Bowen’s death could have been prevented if the extraction system had been switched on.

Chelsea & Westminster NHS Trust pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 (1) and Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and has been fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £23,069.19.

Imperial College London pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 (1) and Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and has been fined £70,000 and ordered to pay costs of £23,069.19.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Anne Gloor said: “Liquid nitrogen, rapidly expands as a gas, replacing the oxygen in a room and creating a situation where life cannot be sustained.

“Mr Bowen was working alone with liquid nitrogen in a small room without any extraction. If the extraction system had been switched on, Mr Bowen would not have died. There should have been a system in place to prevent the extraction being switched off, a proper system of maintaining the equipment and clear arrangements for preventing lone working with liquid nitrogen”.

Notes to Editors:

  1. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. We seek to prevent work-related death, injury and ill health through regulatory actions that range from influencing behaviours across whole industry sectors through to targeted interventions on individual businesses. These activities are supported by globally recognised scientific expertise. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. More about the legislation referred to in this case can be found at: www.legislation.gov.uk/
  3. HSE news releases are available at http://press.hse.gov.uk

 

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