Hazardous vapour kills construction worker


A Worcestershire based company and its directors have been sentenced following the tragic death of one of their construction workers.

Mr A. Sorin was overcome by DCM – dichloromethane – vapour whilst using an industrial strength paint stripper.

Working on his own, Mr Sorin was stripping walls in a basement. Without proper ventilation, the DCM vapour built up and caused Mr Sorin to pass out and then die from the hazardous exposure.


An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the company failed to implement any effective measures to control their workers to DCM exposure.

Tragically, Mr Sorin’s death could have been entirely prevented by eliminating the risk associated with DCM either by using a different paint removal method, by installing suitable ventilation, by supplying appropriate supplied air (SA) RPE, or by substituting the substance for a less hazardous product.

At the City of London Magistrates’ Court hearing, the directors of the company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 7(1) of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 and were fined £50,000 plus costs. Both directors received further sentences of 200 hours community service.


Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector, Owen Rowley, said:

“Mr Sorin’s death was entirely avoidable. DCM is a volatile solvent and exposure to high concentrations of vapour can cause loss of consciousness and death.

“Anyone intending work with DCM-based products should carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and implement appropriate control measures. Crucially, DCM-based products should only be used in well ventilated areas to prevent the build-up of vapour.”



Respiratory Protective Equipment, or RPE, should be used as a last line of defense against hazardous substances in the workplace. However, not all substances can be protected against by all respirators, and some require specific types of filters.

Dichloromethane (DCM) vapour, is an extremely toxic substance used in some industrial paint strippers. Exposure to high concentrations without extraction ventilation can cause fatigue, loss of consciousness and even death.

If sufficient ventilation cannot be achieved to limit exposure, and an alternative substance cannot be used instead, then Supplied Air (SA) RPE should be worn.


For more information, click here to read the full article by the HSE.