9 Dec 2021

Flick Anticimex fined after workers suffer acute poisoning from toxic fumigant

4:52 pm on 9 December 2021

A pest control business has been fined $250,000 after workers suffered poisoning from a hazardous substance.

Worker in protective workwear in weed control, spraying ambrosia

Photo: 123RF

Flick Anticimex Limited was sentenced on Tuesday at the Auckland District Court, under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 for exposing employees to toxic fumigants.

A WorkSafe investigation into the business uncovered serious problems with workers using Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE), including incorrect advice from the employer, and in some cases not using them at all.

"Practices around RPE were seriously below what they needed to be," said WorkSafe spokesperson Api Poutasi.

Workers suffered acute methyl bromide poisoning because of the way they worked or due to ineffective RPE, Poutasi said.

"Flick Anticimex was advising workers with facial hair to use Vaseline to help the mask fit on their face.

"This is a myth which is deeply concerning in how widespread it is. Businesses and organisations must stop propagating this myth."

Workers should have been clean shaven because even a small amount of facial hair could prevent a proper protection with RPE, he said.

Despite a health consultant in 2019 advising the business on proper RPE care, WorkSafe found that it was standard practice for the workers not to use RPE during fumigations and no staff had been properly trained to clean and maintain their equipment.

There was also no coherent system in place that monitored employees' exposure to toxic fumigants.