NEWS: Lone worker asphyxiated after lab ‘switched ventilation off’

By on

Chelsea & Westminster NHS Trust and Imperial College London have been fined after a lone worker was asphyxiated while decanting liquid nitrogen.

Lab worker, Damian Bowen died where he was working at St Stephens Centre Laboratory, Fulham Road in London on the day of the incident, 23 October 2011.

Southwark Crown Court heard how he had been using the liquid nitrogen to freeze blood samples for transport.

Liquid nitrogen, which rapidly expands as a gas, replaced the oxygen in a room ‘creating a situation where life cannot be sustained’.

Investigating HSE inspector Anne Gloor said: “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.”

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

An investigation by HSE established the local exhaust ventilation provided to extract dangerous substances, such as liquid nitrogen, had been switched off.

Chelsea & Westminster NHS Trust pleaded guilty at the hearing in December 2017 to breaching Section 3 (1) and Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £23,069.19.

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


Open plan iStock-1011792700_monkeybusinessimages SMLL.jpg

Only 5 per cent of firms expect staff in the office full time, says CBI

By Belinda Liversedge on 26 July 2021

93 per cent of firms plan to adopt hybrid working models, according to a Confederation of British Industry (CBI) report.

Istock MED 1212160149 William87

Masks only effective if ‘everyone does it’ warn health leaders

By Belinda Liversedge on 13 July 2021

Experience has taught us that we can’t guarantee people will behave responsibly to prevent Covid transmission and wear masks, the chair of the British Safety Council has warned.

Rekjavik Istock 1281062322 Elena Goosen MED

Iceland embraces four-day week after trial success

By Belinda Liversedge on 12 July 2021

The success of a pilot to trial the four-day working week in Iceland should be noted by other governments, the think tank which led the project has said.