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Illegal Removal of Asbestos: The Risks and Consequences

By Principal Lawyer, National Head of Industrial Disease

The removal of asbestos by anyone but specialists is not only unlawful, but poses an extreme health risk. It is therefore important that awareness is raised to the reality of these consequences when contractors fail in their safeguarding duties.

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David William Briggs, trading as Briggs Demolition was found to have ignored an asbestos survey during demolition work on the former Oakbank Training Centre in Chadderton, Oldham. As a result he was found by an HSE inspection to have failed to prevent workers on the site from exposure to asbestos.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) told the court that Mr Briggs then chose to ignore the asbestos report which identified approximately 230 square metres of asbestos materials throughout the buildings, and began demolition without having any of it safely removed.

In doing so, Mr Briggs failed in his duty to protect his workers and anyone else around the worksite from a foreseeable risk of serious harm. As a result, he was found guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and was sentenced to 24 weeks imprisonment.

Asbestos in any work environment is a concern. It is imperative that it is properly identified, managed, contained and where necessary removed by the appropriate asbestos removal specialists to reduce any potential exposure to those in the vicinity.

Asbestos in any work environment is a concern. It is imperative that it is properly identified, managed, contained and where necessary removed by the appropriate asbestos removal specialists to reduce any potential exposure to those in the vicinity.

The removal of asbestos is most certainly not an area that professionals who know better should cut corners for the sake of expenses. Disturbed asbestos dust and fibres is highly hazardous and can potentially put the public at risk of exposure. The HSE states that asbestos-related disease claim the lives of an estimated 5,000 people per year in the UK.

Elsewhere, Midlands based firm Enviro-Safe Limited was recently fined a five-figure sum following an investigation by the HSE that revealed they failed to meet the standards required for asbestos removal work.

As in the case of Briggs Demolition, Enviro-Safe were rightly fined for their negligence, which ultimately may have had considerably more severe consequences.

In the UK, the law states that duty holders have the responsibility to ensure that adequate assessments take place to avoid the risk of asbestos exposure. This ought to include taking reasonable steps to locating any harmful waste as well as identifying the risk of anyone being potentially exposed to asbestos. In the event asbestos is found, the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 orders the findings of the survey to be shared with anyone who might be put at risk, by providing information on the location and condition of the asbestos to anyone who could disturb it.

 

To learn more about the risks of asbestos exposure, please see the following video:

 

 

Madelene Holdsworth is the national head of industrial disease at Slater and Gordon Lawyers 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.

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