17 January 2013
Companies could face industrial disease claims for asbestos failings
Several industrial disease claims may be launched against two companies after it emerged they had endangered the lives of a number of employees by exposing them to asbestos.
Engineering firm Wall Colmonoy contracted Oaktree Construction to carry out work to renovate a property opposite its site in Swansea in December 2010 so it would be able to expand its premises.
This job involved demolition and refurbishment work, but an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) established that both companies committed numerous errors that resulted in the professionals conducting the operation coming into contact with the potentially lethal substance.
According to the HSE's analysis, this project was poorly managed from the outset as staff not trained in dealing with asbestos were put in charge.
Despite the fact the two asbestos surveys Wall Colmonoy had carried out were found to have been inadequate, they did establish the presence of fibres of the material, meaning greater care should have been taken to protect the professionals doing this job.
Even though it was clearly hazardous to do so, the company instructed Oaktree Construction to get on with the task, despite the fact the building organisation was told by the HSE that a separate Refurbishment and Demolition Survey was needed beforehand.
The health and safety watchdog cited an example of both firms' carelessness in which an employee of Wall Colmonoy was told to simply tape some plastic bags around an asbestos insulation board that had been damaged.
As such, the work continued for a number of months with asbestos debris on the floor before an inspector from the HSE carried out an unannounced inspection of the site.
Wall Colomonoy subsequently admitted breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £16,000, while Oaktree Construction pleaded guilty to breaking the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 and accepted a penalty of £8,000.
Anne Marie Orrells of the HSE commented: "Demolition and refurbishment work must be properly planned and managed by competent personnel with the right training and experience."
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Posted by Francesca Witney