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Council Fined Following Dishwasher Fluid Death

Case 'Highlights Chemical Handling Safety'


The death of a man with learning difficulties who drank dishwasher fluid after mistaking it for orange squash has highlighted the importance of properly managing harmful materials, an expert at Irwin Mitchell has revealed.

Colin Woods, 60, died months after suffering internal injuries in the incident, which occurred during an East Sussex County Council-organised trip to use sporting facilities at Plumpton Agricultural College in December 2004

The drink, which contained sodium hydroxide, had been prepared at a day centre and then taken on the trip out. Five others suffered major internal injuries following the incident and most had to have repeated surgery.

Following an investigation, the council admitted to leaving the dangerous liquid out in the unlocked kitchen of the day centre. The local authority has been fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs.

Katrina Elsey, who specialises in public liability claims of this kind at Irwin Mitchell, said: “This terrible, tragic incident demonstrates just why there are standards in place for the correct handling of chemicals and hazardous materials, particularly when in close proximity to vulnerable members of society.

“It is vital that lessons have been learnt from this case which can then be brought into action at day centres across the UK.

“Ultimately, it is vital that improvements to safety standards are seen and that a repeat of problems of this kind can be avoided in the future.”