Ex-Dundee director’s firm fined over tank death

Diamond Wheels were fined 50 thousand pounds at Dundee Sheriff Court. Picture: Allan Milligan
Diamond Wheels were fined 50 thousand pounds at Dundee Sheriff Court. Picture: Allan Milligan
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A company run by a former Dundee FC director of football was yesterday hit with a £50,000 fine after one of his workers suffered a horrific death in a chemical tank.

Diamond Wheels (Dundee) Ltd – owned and operated by Paul Marr, son of ex-Dark Blues owner Peter Marr – admitted a catalogue of health and safety failings over the death of Steven Conway at their city premises.

Mr Conway was sent in to clean a chemical tank containing “volatile” compounds at an industrial unit where Marr ran the firm, which specialises in restoring alloy wheels for cars.

Dundee Sheriff Court heard Mr Conway – a 33-year-old father-of-two – was sent in to remove debris created from the process of stripping wheels using a chemical known as EFX Strip. It contains methlyene chloride, methanol and hydrofluoric acid and is described as a “highly volatile organic compound”.

Mr Conway went into the tank wearing only trainers, tracksuit bottoms, a T-shirt and a fleece.

He was not provided with overalls or other protective clothing – and wore a mask that did nothing to protect him from toxic fumes.

Fiscal depute Emma Stewart told the court: “Mr Conway was found wearing the face mask, kneeling inside the tank.

“He was slumped against the side of the tank and appeared to be unconscious. He appeared to be kneeling on top of two alloy wheels which had been placed in the bottom of the tank.”

Mr Marr and a colleague then hauled him out and tried to resuscitate him.

Paramedics arrived and performed CPR but he was eventually pronounced dead in hospital. A post-mortem found he had suffered chemical burns to his thighs, knees, shins and feet “typical of chemical burns from contact with hydrofluoric acid”.

Pathologists concluded he had died from inhaling industrial paint stripper.

Miss Stewart said the tank he was working in was not properly ventilated, he was not provided with any protective clothing, the protective gloves he was provided had holes in them, and the face mask he was wearing was actually releasing “contaminants” into his air supply.

Sheriff Alistair Brown asked: “Does that mean far from providing protection this equipment was actually supplying in the airstream the toxic substance?”

Miss Stewart said: “Yes – it would be creating a false sense of security.”

She added: “There were no emergency rescue procedures, no risk assessment was carried out and there was no safe system of work in place.”

Diamond Wheels (Dundee) Ltd, of Nethergate, Dundee, pleaded guilty to a charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act committed between 1 February and 18 August 2011.