Greater Manchester Magistrates’ Court, sitting at Manchester and Salford Court House, heard how, on 19 November 2015, Mr Barrie Lyons, a well-trained asbestos analyst with 29 years of experience, was contracted to carry out the final inspection and air testing, following asbestos removal at a construction site in central Manchester.
Mr Lyons’ task included a thorough examination of the area where asbestos had been removed from, within the defined enclosure itself and the areas surrounding it. He also had a series of air samples to collect and evaluate, to ensure that the air was substantially free of asbestos.
The investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that Mr Lyons had failed to carry out a suitable inspection of the site and had not carried out the correct amount of air sampling, despite his report to his employer and the client indicating that he had. In effect, Mr Lyons had deliberately falsified his report and so his published results could no longer be relied upon. The asbestos removal contractor had no option but to have a second clearance test carried out which incurred significant delays and additional expense.
HSE inspector Matthew Greenly said after the hearing: “Asbestos analysts play a vital role in ensuring that areas are safe to enter after asbestos is removed. Mr Lyons sadly chose on this occasion to falsify his records which was a massive abuse of the trust placed in him by the client.
“This deliberate act increased the risk of numerous people potentially being exposed to asbestos, a risk Mr Lyons would be very well aware of from his experience, all to save a little time and finish the job early.
“It is hoped that the industry uses this case as a reminder that anyone involved in asbestos removal must do everything reasonable to protect people from a material which causes around 4000 deaths per year in the UK.”
Mr Barrie Lyons, of Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 7(a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £2000 and ordered to pay costs of £3905.73
Many readers had questions concerning this case that were put to the HSE inspector by SHP. The answers are below.
Was this a one off incident or was he a serial ‘falsifier’?
Mr Lyons had no previous history of falsifying documents that could be found or any HSE intervention against him as an individual.
So if you are procuring asbestos services and the surveyor has a great deal of experience and qualifications how do you know that they are actually doing what you pay them to do? Do you rely on the employer doing random spot checks and re-surveying to pick this up?
Asbestos surveyors and their companies are highly trained to standards laid down by the British Occupational Hygiene Society and UKAS and also have to work to the standards laid out in HSE guidance HSG264 which details how to assess the competency of asbestos surveyors in section 2. HSE would not expect someone to randomly resurvey a site/building in order to check the competence of the first surveyor. We would expect any prospective customer to satisfy themselves that their chosen surveyor is suitably qualified as we would anyone employing a specialist contractor, competence should always be established so far as is reasonably practicable. If a survey company can demonstrate accreditation to UKAS, BOHS or similar then they should be competent to do a thorough job.
Does an asbestos surveyor employed by a company even require a licence to operate?
Asbestos surveyors do not require a licence to operate as the action of sampling for asbestos is classed as low intensity and sporadic work. (see HSG264, paragraph 16)
Was his license revoked?
Mr Lyons never had or needed an asbestos license so nothing has been or can be revoked. He is now working for another company as an asbestos analyst who are fully aware of this case.