Safety Tips FACE Reports

FACEValue: Maintenance worker dies from dichloromethane exposure

Case report: 12CA002*
Issued by: California Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Program
Date of incident: May 2010

A 24-year-old maintenance worker died while using a paint stripper, which contained dichloromethane (methylene chloride), to strip the floor of a baptismal font within a church. The church trained and tested its maintenance workers with written and video-based materials for the work they would be asked to complete. According to statements of the assistant pastor, the victim was instructed to be sure the area was well ventilated, to work no longer than 15 minutes at a time with the chemical, and to wear a mask and gloves. However, no mask, gloves or means of mechanical ventilation were provided to the victim. The victim used his own personal gloves (type unknown) during the task. The victim, who had been given instructions on how to use the stripper by the assistant pastor, poured an unknown amount of paint stripper (up to 1 gallon) over the steps and floor of the font and spread it around using a push broom. With the windows and doors open, the victim left the area to allow the stripper to work into the surface. He was later found lying face down on the floor with the doors and windows closed. No local or general exhaust ventilation was in place to prevent harmful exposure. The victim died at the scene from acute methylene chloride intoxication.

To prevent future occurrences:

  • A hazard analysis should be performed to determine the risk of exposure to toxic levels of methylene chloride. Although the assistant pastor gave general instructions to the victim about how to strip the font coating, neither likely understood that methylene chloride is a highly volatile chemical that could result in dangerous airborne levels with the doors and window closed. The label on the paint stripper advised that it should be used with ventilation, but this warning did not prevent the victim from using the product without taking proper precautions.

*This report is the product of NIOSH’s Cooperative State partner. The findings and conclusions in each report are those of the individual Cooperative State partner and do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of NIOSH.

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)