THERE have been three cases reported recently that show – despite the efforts of the Health and Safety Executive and well-established legislation – companies and property owners are still failing to adequately control the risks from asbestos.
A contracting firm was fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay £3,064 in costs after workers at a major renovation were exposed to material containing asbestos.
The contractor was working on the refurbishment of three student blocks at the College of St Mark and St John in Plymouth and had agreed with a specialist asbestos removal company that they would work simultaneously in parts of the building already cleared by the asbestos removal workers.
However the builders began work in an area of the building which had not been cleared of asbestos.
Four employees were exposed to fibres and had to go through a specialist decontamination process.
A property developer put his workers at risk by failing to identify the presence of asbestos before allowing them to start work on a nightclub in Wrexham.
He instructed contractors to remove sprayed coating containing amosite (brown asbestos) from steel beams while refurbishing the nightclub.
The workers were exposed to the deadly substance over a period of 13 days. As the asbestos was spread in and around the property and disposed of in an illegal manner, the property developer was also prosecuted under environmental legislation.
A plant hire company and a construction services firm put workers and the public at risk by failing to properly manage the presence of asbestos during the refurbishment of a residential block of flats.
Asbestos insulation board was disturbed and removed by unlicensed contractor potentially releasing the deadly substance into the air.
A previous survey, identifying the presence of asbestos insulation board in a number of the properties, had been provided but had not been acted upon or passed to their sub-contractors. Both companies were fined £50,000.
Asbestos-related diseases are responsible for around 4,000 deaths every year. Further information on working with asbestos can be found at http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos
If you are responsible for maintenance of a property, your business is involved in the construction or refurbishment of buildings, or your employees may encounter asbestos in buildings as part of their trade, Wilby Risk Management strongly advises that companies have adequate training in asbestos awareness and management. Suitable procedures must be in place to prevent workers, residents, other contractors and the general public from being exposed to asbestos.