A builder has been fined after two labourers sustained second degree chemical burns after working knee-deep in wet concrete for more than four hours at a development in south west London.
One of the workers, who does not wish to be named, required skin grafts to both ankles as a result of his prolonged contact with the material at Stanley Road in East Sheen on 6 October 2010.
He and his colleague were left in severe discomfort after working as casual labourers for Geoffrey Cinko, 55, on a project to demolish five garages and erect two semi-detached homes in their place.
Mr Cinko was prosecuted today (11 March) by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found he failed in his duty of care as an employer to ensure suitable instructions, personal protective equipment and welfare facilities were provided.
Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard during a two-day trial that the two injured workers had been asked to assist with the concreting of a basement excavation.
The wet concrete was poured into the excavation and they had to wade amongst it to evenly distribute and smooth the material before it was left to set.
Some three hours into the work one of the workers complained of severe pain to his legs, exited the concrete, and attempted to find welfare facilities to wash the concrete off his legs. However, no adequate welfare facilities were available. The labourers continued working in varying depths of concrete up to just below their knees for at least another hour before they finished.
Both had to seek hospital treatment that evening after experiencing painful burning sensations around their ankles and lower legs. They were diagnosed with chemical burns and were unable to return to work.
The HSE investigation found that prior to the work neither worker was briefed on the risks of working with wet concrete, which is a strong alkali that can cause serious burns and ulcers.
Furthermore, Mr Cinko failed to provide personal protective equipment for the workers, such as boots providing cover to knee level; and welfare facilities at the site were wholly inadequate.
Geoffrey Cinko, of Holmesdale Avenue, East Sheen, SW14, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £10,000 in costs after being found guilty of breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
After the hearing, HSE inspector James Hickman commented:
“This was an entirely preventable incident that left two workers with serious and extremely painful chemical burn injuries.
“The risks associated with working with wet concrete are well known and the necessary control measures to protect workers are easily achievable. Yet they received no protection whatsoever from Mr Cinko, who showed a blatant disregard for their safety and welfare.
“He fell well short of the required standards expected of a competent principal contractor, and I hope his conviction sends a clear message to others.”
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.”