After the exposure of four workers to potentially damaging levels of asbestos fibres, a major Southampton contracting firm has been sentenced.
The contracting firm, CLC Contractors Ltd of Southampton, was found guilty on the breach of two separate regulations (details below) and fined a total of £10,000, with an additional fee of £3,064 in costs, at Plymouth Magistrates on 18th April this year.
The incident occurred in May 2009 despite an agreement with a specialist asbestos removal company that only areas already cleared of the dangerous material would be worked on. Disregarding this agreement, builders started work in an area of the site which had not been cleared and were consequently exposed to asbestos fibres. A specialist decontamination process followed and, fortunately, we understand that no lasting effects have been noted in those exposed as yet.
The incident, though, was a serious dereliction of the duty of care that every company has to its workers. Despite a plea of guilty on both charges – exposing four employees to asbestos under Regulation 11 (1) (a) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 and breaching Regulation 6(1)(a) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 – and the fact that no-one was hurt, the firm was nevertheless still fined a sum total of £13,064.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) brought the case against CLC contractors and seem committed to prosecuting needless negligence. HSE inspector, Barry Trudgian, said:
“This incident could have been avoided if an adequate risk assessment had been made before the work started and communicated clearly to the workforce.
“Exposure to asbestos can have serious long-term consequences for your health and precautions must be taken to minimise any risks when working on buildings.”
Nonetheless, it’s not only CLC Contractors that have recently felt the wrath of the HSE. The director of a firm called Amencon Ltd, based in Redditch and reputedly an asbestos surveying corporation, was recently fined £5,000, with £2,348 costs, for breaching Section 36(1) of the HSWA, for failing to identify 1,252 sq m of asbestos insulation board (AIB) and lagging in a building facing imminent demolition.
Asbestos-related diseases are still responsible for around 4,000 deaths every year. Further information on working with asbestos can be found at http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/ and an informative article from the www.propertysurveying.co.uk network can be found on this link ‘Asbestos’.