On 12 March 2014 I blogged about a Suffolk firm that was fined after exposing workers to dangerous and hazardous asbestos material during work that replaced windows at Westley Middle School in Bury St Edmunds.
The HSE has again been successful in proceedings against a different building firm in Battersea for failing to highlight and communicate the known presence of asbestos insulating board at a Berkshire warehouse. As a result, employees were exposed to the deadly asbestos fibres.
Despite having a detailed asbestos survey that listed the various locations of the asbestos wall panels inside the building in Wokingham, Redwood Contractors Ltd in December 2011 failed to communicate this to its employees including a foreman who thought the AIB was asbestos cement and which was removed without the adequate health and safety equipment.
Reading Magistrates’ Court heard that asbestos insulating board should only be removed by a licensed asbestos contractor because of the risk of exposure to the dangerous fibres contained within it. As a result the HSE was able to establish that the said foreman was not provided with the detailed asbestos survey or any details about the asbestos panels.
The company was fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay £2,857 in costs after pleading guilty to two separate breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Karen Morris commented, “It is disappointing that the foreman and others were needlessly put at risk simply because the asbestos survey for the warehouse wasn’t supplied to the team on the ground, or the location of the AIB relayed.
“What is the point of having a suitable survey in hand if you aren’t going to act on it and share vital information with those who need to know? Sadly, breakdowns in communication of this kind are all too common, but that doesn’t excuse Redwood Contractors from failing to do more.
“The company is guilty of a clear oversight that may have compromised the future health and wellbeing of its workers. Everyone knows that asbestos is a potential killer, and the onus is on duty holders to implement proper control measures at all times when dealing with asbestos.”
This is a very unfortunate situation and as rightly pointed out by the HSE inspector, should not have happened. As a result innocent people have been exposed to deadly asbestos fibres. It's essential that all businesses take responsibility for their employees and ensure that communication remains open especially when it comes to the health and safety of their staff.
Alison Kerr is an Asbestos Compensation Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.
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