Council admits offence following dishwasher fluid death

A council has admitted failing to store a hazardous substance correctly after a man who swallowed dishwasher fluid during an outing died.

Colin Woods, 60, who had Down's Syndrome, drank the liquid he thought was orange squash in 2004.

His digestive organs were eroded by the fluid and he died in April 2006.

East Sussex County Council pleaded guilty at Brighton Magistrates' Court to failing to store a hazardous substance to prevent serious risk.

'Coughing up blood'

Prosecutor Rubina Zaidi said Mr Woods was one of six people who drank the liquid during a weekly sports outing to Plumpton College from the council-owned and run St Nicholas Centre in Lewes.

Ms Zaidi said they all had to be taken to hospital for treatment after they started vomiting, fitting and coughing up blood.

A member of staff back at the centre found an open container of sodium hydroxide dishwasher fluid in a different room from where it was normally kept.

The court was told the bottle was almost the same as the bottles of orange squash at the centre and the person who mixed the drink, who has not been named, did not mean to cause any harm.

Ms Zaidi said a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found no hazardous substance controls were in place and no data sheet was maintained for the detergent.

She added: "The council exposed these particularly vulnerable service users to a serious risk to their health and safety."

The court heard risk assessments had been put in place and the relevant member of staff had been disciplined since the incident.

East Sussex County Council will be sentenced at crown court at a later date.

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