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Industrial disease claims to follow Royal Navy base work?

Industrial disease claims to follow Royal Navy base work?

The exposure of workers and Royal Navy personnel to asbestos at a training base in Hampshire could lead to industrial disease claims.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that two firms - VT Flagship of Southampton and Hertfordshire-based PPSL District Energy - failed to take appropriate measures to prevent asbestos contamination at the HMS Sultan site in Gosport.

Pipes lined with asbestos insulation were removed from the base in September 2009 as part of work to install a new water system, but they were then left on a roadside before being placed into an open recycling skip.

VT Flagship was the main contractor at the site and called in PPSL to remove the pipes, Portsmouth Magistrates Court was told. However, PPSL in turn contracted a local welding and pipe fitting firm to do the work.

The pipes were eventually transferred to the yard of Demolition and Salvage in nearby Hilsea, with the salvage company contacting the HSE in October 2009 after it discovered the premises had been contaminated by asbestos.

Both VT Flagship and PPSL pleaded guilty to breaches of asbestos regulations in court and were fined. The former firm received a penalty of £12,000 with costs of £5,196, while the latter was ordered to pay a fine of £18,000 and £4,291 in costs.

"A number of workers for several different companies, as well as passing Navy personnel, were put at unnecessary risk," HSE inspector Adam Wycherley said of the incident.

"Anyone walking past the pipes could have inhaled fibres as they became airborne, and they posed a major contamination hazard."

Updated regulations for dealing with asbestos in the workplace came into effect in April 2012. The material remains the single biggest cause of work-related deaths in the UK, with diseases stemming from asbestos exposure thought to be responsible for about 4,500 fatalities a year.

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Posted by Francesca Witney