Private health care provider fined for exposing workers to chlorine gas

A private health care provider has been fined after three workers received treatment following exposure to chlorine gas.

Anthony Coombes, an engineer from Sandhurst, Berkshire, was working at The Hampshire Clinic on Basing Road in Basingstoke when he was exposed to the potentially deadly gas on 11 March 2021.

He had been hired by Circle Health Group, the firm that runs The Hampshire Clinic, and asked to reduce the PH levels in the clinic’s hydrotherapy pool. However, there were no trained employees for the safe operation of pool plant at the clinic’s physiotherapy suite and Mr Coombes had not been fully trained in chlorine dosing operations or chemical storage.

He added sodium hydrogen sulphate, also known as sodium bisulphate, to the pool’s sodium hypochlorite tank which caused a reaction and resulted in the release of chlorine gas.

Mr Coombes, who is now 59, was exposed to the gas and taken to hospital where he was given oxygen. Two other workers at The Hampshire Clinic were affected by the gas exposure and treated by doctors at the site.

Chlorine gas exposure can be fatal in minutes.  Analysis by HSE’s Science Division indicated that the maximum volume of chlorine gas produced was nearly 8000 times over the workplace exposure limit (WEL) and nearly 400 times over the Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDHL) Limit.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that Circle Health Group fell far short in ensuring the health, safety and welfare of both its employees and contractors.  Industry guidance for managing pool water treatment is well-known and been established for a significant period of time.  Circle Health Group failed to put in place recognised industry standards of suitable risk assessments, adequate training as well as instructions and safe systems of work for the handling and mixing of chemicals.