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Lincolnshire stained glass firm to pay out £36k over lead poisoning

The director of a Lincolnshire stained glass company has been fined £18,000 plus £18,000 in costs after an employee suffered severe lead poisoning.

Lincolnshire Stained Glass director David Sear (59) of Theddlethorpe, near Mablethorpe, pleaded guilty at Lincoln Magistrates Court to failing to control the risk of lead exposure between January 2010 and October 2011.

After five years restoring windows at Lincolnshire Stained Glass, employee David Doherty (26) was found to have seven times the normal amount of lead in his blood.

David Doherty had been ill for a number of years before his diagnosis in October 2011.

Mr Doherty had complained of feeling unwell and tired, and had suffered from frequent infections.

It was suggested by a nurse that the infections could be due to lead poisoning, after learning Mr Doherty’s place of work.

Since the diagnosis, David Doherty has been undergoing a year of hospital treatment and has been unable to work.

A subsequent investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that David Sear, sole owner of Lincolnshire Stained Glass, failed to provide controls to protect his six workers from lead exposure.

Mr Sear ignored advice of the lead control requirements in 2005 when blood tests carried out on the advice of HSE showed workers were at significant risk of lead poisoning.

HSE’s investigation also  found there were no suitable dust extraction systems in place and that workers were not using masks when soldering, putting them at risk from lead fumes.

In addition, HSE found that the training workers received was not adequate and they had not been informed of the risks and symptoms of lead poisoning.

The court also heard that measures of safety concerning uniform and overalls were not carried out.

David Doherty said: “This whole experience has just ruined my life. It was just one thing after another and I was constantly going back to the doctors.

“I was feeling and being sick, lost my appetite and I found myself getting really angry all the time, losing my temper with people.

“My friends noticed a real change in me and I fell out with people as a result. I did not know what was happening to me only that it wasn’t at all nice.

“The first I knew anything about working safely with lead was when the Health and Safety Executive took my statement. I had no training and didn’t take any certificates in working with lead. I even used to go home in the clothes I’d been working in.

“Thankfully I’m starting to feel better. I was in a really bad place for a while but it feels like the treatment is working. I’ll need more blood tests to tell me if the lead is leaving my body.

“In the future I’m thinking of going to college and maybe even starting my own business. I’m trying to stay positive.”

Speaking after the court hearing, HSE inspector Lorraine Nicholls said: “Mr Sear is the owner of a specialist business that has been operating for some 30 years.

“He had no excuse for turning a blind eye to the known risks of this profession and neglecting the required safety standards to protect his workforce.

“Employees’ exposure to lead would have been greatly reduced with proper controls such as adequate extraction systems, suitable hygiene arrangements, personal protective equipment, air monitoring and medical surveillance – all measures Mr Sear knew he should have had in place.

“The instruction and training that Mr Doherty received also left a lot to be desired.  Had he and his colleagues been aware of the risks of working with lead Mr Doherty’s condition could have been diagnosed a lot sooner and not been left to worsen. It was disappointing that Mr Sear did not even recognise the symptoms.”