13 January 2017
An Employer’s Duty to Protect Workers From Asbestos
The distressing news of companies subjecting their workers to asbestos exposure highlights a dangerous lack of awareness of the dangers involved.
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation revealed that two Essex-based companies exposed workers to asbestos dust and fibres over several years.
Basildon Crown Court heard that asbestos was present in Connect Packaging Ltd’s industrial units at Manor Road Trading Estate, Benfleet in 2007, but the company failed to act upon knowledge of the risk. When the units were sublet to Creo Retail Marketing Ltd in 2009, an asbestos survey was undertaken. However, the continuing risk of ‘poorly-encapsulated’ blue asbestos meant that workers remained potentially exposed to asbestos.
Raising awareness of the risks of exposure to asbestos is important in avoiding the life-changing effect it can have on people many years down the line.
In the event asbestos is discovered in a non-domestic property – or indeed a domestic property - where workers and the public may be at risk of exposure, those responsible for the property should act as quickly as possible.
Asbestos that has been disturbed should be treated as a severe health risk. For this reason, if asbestos is discovered, or suspected during renovation work, robust measures should be taken to ensure the risk is minimal.
Under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 any asbestos discovered on a work site must be registered and disposed of by specialists. Duty holders must, by law, see that risk assessments are carried out, along with clear plans that ensure any further health risk is eliminated. They should also provide information on the location and condition of the materials to anyone who is liable to work on or disturb them.
It would appear likely that the two Essex companies had not shared their knowledge of the present asbestos with workers. Or, in the event they had, the severity of the risk was not made clear.
Raising awareness of the risks of exposure to asbestos is important in avoiding the life-changing effect it can have on people many years down the line. Any acknowledged breaches of health and safety should therefore be suitably punished in considering the potential damage that such negligence could cause.
The HSE’s investigation discovered asbestos on rafters above work areas, within a stationery cupboard and around the workers’ clocking-in point.
Connect Packaging Ltd, registered at 91 Soho Hill, Birmingham was fined £65,000 and ordered to pay £8,150.23 in costs after pleading guilty to a breach of Section 4 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Creo Retail Marketing Ltd, registered at 350 Euston Road, London, was fined £150,000 and ordered to pay £8,149.63 in costs after pleading guilty to breaches of Sections 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
How Can You Register Your Exposure to Asbestos?
If you suspect that you have been exposed to asbestos on a work site, you should record this exposure as soon as possible. In the event that you are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease it may be difficult to trace the exact time and place that you were exposed. By registering your asbestos exposure immediately, this information could help in bringing an asbestos compensation claim.
You can register exposure to asbestos here.
Edmund Young is a principal lawyer and head of industrial disease for London at Slater and Gordon Lawyers.
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.