News item

Cement burn fine

A company that provided inadequate information about a cement product they delivered have been successfully prosecuted by Norfolk trading standards after a customer received severe burns to his legs.

Norfolk County Council Trading Standards brought a prosecution against GM Concrete Ltd of Garage Lane, Setchey, Norfolk, on the grounds of one offence contrary to Section 20 (2) of the General Product Safety Regulations 2005.

The company fined £3000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £3,483.

On March 18 2009 the company delivered 5 cubic metres of wet cement to a customer in Hillington, Norfolk.

The substantial amount of concrete was for a swimming pool base, which was being undertaken as a DIY project by the householder.

Wet cement is hazardous due to its alkalinity and can cause serious chemical burns and ulceration on contact with skin and eyes. The skin damage is not immediately obvious, in contrast to being scolded with boiling water, as the alkaline solution damages the nerve endings in the skin so there is initially no pain, which means that the damage is not recognised and exposure occurs unnoticed. Skin contact can be caused by direct contact with the skin or through clothing which has been saturated from contact.

The law requires that consumers must be provided with adequate information, enabling them to assess risks and appropriate precautions to be taken in relation to any hazardous substance, where the risks are not immediately apparent.

The information should make it clear that fresh wet cement is dangerous and the nature of this danger and identify the steps that you need to take to ensure that you are protected against contact with the wet cement.

In this case, inadequate information was provided and the warning formed part of the delivery invoice - which wasn't provided until after the delivery was made.   As a consequence of prolonged exposure, the consumer suffered severe burns to the legs, requiring skin grafts.

In order to educate both traders and consumers about this issue, Norfolk County Council has worked with BRMCA (British Ready Mixed Concrete Association) to distribute a poster, about the provision of relevant information with cement orders, to Norfolk DIY stores and builders' merchants.

Sophie Leney, Trading Standards Manager, said : 'DIY is a national pastime.  When people have a go at building a wall or even just decorating a room, they may use tools, equipment and materials that they are unfamiliar with.  Suppliers have a legal duty to provide their customers with clear instructions on how to use equipment and materials safely. 
'It is important that people are able to satisfy themselves that they understand any dangers involved and follow the instructions provided so as to avoid any injury or ill health.  If their supplier hasn’t given them instructions or they are unclear about what to do they should ask for guidance before starting any work.'