Legal action is being taken against the Health and Safety Executive of Northern Ireland (HSENI) over allegations that asbestos was allowed to remain on a building site in Carrickfergus for seven years.
Contractor, Joe Strawbridge from Limavady, claims HSENI “neglected their duties to protect the public”, with the company no longer permitted to complete work on the Belfast Road site.
But what obligations do companies have when it comes to asbestos found on a property?
As with all elements of health and safety, legislation is in place to protect workers, visitors and the public as a whole against a potential hazard in the workplace or a public property.
When that hazard concerns asbestos, the risk is severe and, accordingly, the law has put in place measures that address the level of concern.
The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 outlines that any work site, especially one that the public could access, needs to ensure that any asbestos is registered, maintained and eventually removed. This legislation means that a duty holder, usually the owner of the building, must:
- take reasonable steps to find out if there are materials containing asbestos in non-domestic premises, and if so, its amount, where it is and what condition it is in
- presume materials contain asbestos unless there is strong evidence that they do not
- make, and keep up-to-date, a record of the location and condition of the asbestos- containing materials - or materials which are presumed to contain asbestos
When it comes to managing asbestos, only specialists should be consulted to handle, remove and dispose of it in a way that doesn’t pose a further health risk.
- assess the risk of anyone being exposed to fibres from the materials identified
- prepare a plan that sets out in detail how the risks from these materials will be managed
- take the necessary steps to put the plan into action
- periodically review and monitor the plan and the arrangements to act on it so that the plan remains relevant and up-to-date
- provide information on the location and condition of the materials to anyone who is liable to work on or disturb them
When it comes to managing asbestos, only specialists should be consulted to handle, remove and dispose of it in a way that doesn’t pose a further health risk. Removing it without specialist professional management could potentially cause more damage.
If unsure about whether there might be asbestos on a property before carrying out renovations, it is best to presume that asbestos is a possibility and consult a licensed contractor.
If asbestos is found in non-domestic premises, such as a building site, the aforementioned risk assessment and management should be carried out to ensure anyone working or using the premises are safe.
Asbestos was banned from use in commercial buildings in 1999, but buildings constructed prior to that date could contain asbestos. Asbestos poses a severe health concern when it is disturbed and asbestos dust and fibres can be inhaled.
Asbestos continues to kill an estimated 5,000 workers each year – a higher number than people killed in road traffic collisions.
Register Exposure to Asbestos Today
In the unfortunate event that you believe that you may have been exposed to asbestos it is essential that you register this exposure as soon as possible.
Patrick Walsh is a principal lawyer specialising in industrial disease claims at Slater and Gordon in Manchester.
Slater and Gordon Lawyers have a specialist team of asbestos compensation solicitors that deal with asbestos claims on a No Win No Fee basis. For a free consultation call 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help you.