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Ex-Dundee FC director's company admits failings over worker's death

Steven Conway died after being sent to clean chemical tank that contained 'volatile' compounds.

Dundee Sheriff Court: The trial, before Sheriff Tom Hughes and a jury, continues.

A company run by a former Dundee FC director of football is facing a massive fine after one of his workers suffered a horrific death in a chemical tank.

Diamond Wheels (Dundee) Ltd, owned and operated by Paul Marr, son of ex-Dark Blues owner Peter Marr, admitted a catalogue of health and safety failings over the death of Steven Conway at their premises in the city.

Mr Conway was sent in to clean out a chemical tank that contained "volatile" compounds at an industrial unit where Marr ran the firm, which specialises in restoring alloy wheels for cars.

Dundee Sheriff Court heard Mr Conway, a 33-year-old father-of-two, was sent in to remove debris created from the process of stripping wheels using a chemical known as EFX Strip.

That chemical contains methylene chloride, methanol and hydrofluoric acid and is described as a "highly volatile organic compound".

Mr Conway went in to the tank wearing only trainers, tracksuit bottoms, a T-shirt and a fleece.

He was not provided with overalls or any other protective clothing and wore a mask that did nothing to protect him from the toxic fumes let off by the chemicals.

Fiscal depute Emma Stewart told the court: "Mr Conway was found wearing the face mask, kneeling inside the stripping tank.

"He was slumped against the side of the tank and appeared to be unconscious.

"He appeared to be kneeling on top of two allow wheels which had been placed in the bottom of the tank."

Mr Marr and a colleague then hauled him out and tried to resuscitate him.

Paramedics arrived and performed CPR but found no vital signs. He was eventually pronounced dead in hospital just over an hour after the incident.

A post-mortem examination found he had suffered chemical burns to his thighs, knees, shins and feet "typical of chemical burns from contact with hydrofluoric acid".

Pathologists concluded he had died from inhaling industrial paint stripper.

Ms Stewart added: "A joint investigation was undertaken by the Health and Safety Executive and Tayside Police."

She said the tank he was working in was not properly ventilated, he was not provided with any protective clothing, the protective gloves he was provided had holes in them, and the face mask he was wearing was actually releasing contaminants into his air supply.

Sheriff Alistair Brown asked: "Does that mean far from providing protection this equipment was actually supplying in the airstream the toxic substance?"

Miss Stewart said: "Yes - it would be creating a false sense of security."

She added: "There were no emergency rescue procedures in the premises, no risk assessment was carried out and there was no safe system of work in place."

Diamond Wheels (Dundee) Ltd, whose registered office is in Nethergate, Dundee, pleaded guilty on indictment to a charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act committed between February 1 and August 18 2011.

Defence advocate Gavin Anderson said the company had undertaken extensive efforts to adhere strictly to health and safety standards since Mr Conway's death.

He said the firm was being kept afloat for the time being by cash injections from Peter Marr.

Mr Anderson said: "I express publicly in open court that Mr Conway's tragic death is genuinely and deeply regretted by all associated with the company.

"He had been a friend of Mr Marr for seven years prior to this and was valued not only as an employee but also as a friend."

Sheriff Alistair Brown deferred sentence until October for the Crown and defence to make written legal submissions in the case.

Addressing Mr Conway's mother and father in the public benches, he said: "Nothing that I can say or do will bring him back and I recognise that.

"It is certainly not the case in selecting a fine that I will be in any way seeking to put any kind of value on him or his life.

"It is important to keep in mind that Mr Conway died as a result of this - he's not to be forgotten in this process."

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