Asbestos removal company fined for failing to protect workers from risk
An asbestos management company has been fined and two of its employees have been jailed for failing to protect workers from asbestos exposure during a major refurbishment project in Plymouth.
Concerns were raised by workers at Ensure Asbestos Management Limited who believed they were being put in danger whilst carrying out refurbishment work at the former department store, in February 2017, Chelmsford Crown Court was told.
The HSE’s investigation found irregularities in the asbestos surveys and clearance certificates, with some of them found to be fraudulent.
Ensure Asbestos Management Limited had been contracted to carry out an asbestos survey, remove all identified asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) from the building and then carry out the initial strip-out of the building before it was refurbished. However, the company was found to have deliberately cut corners in managing the danger of asbestos exposure putting workers at risk.
Ensure Asbestos Management Limited of Station Road, Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 was fined £100,000.
Director of Ensure Asbestos Management Billy Hopwood of Swanstead, Basildon, Essex pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He has been sentenced to 10 months in prison and has been disqualified from being a director for five years.
Contracts Manager at Ensure Asbestos Management Phillip Hopwood of Churchgate Street, Harlow, Essex pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2(1), 3(1) and 33(1)(m) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He has sentenced to 15 months in prison and disqualified from being a director for 10 years.
Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector Georgina Symons said: “Ensure Asbestos Management Limited – a previously licensed asbestos removal contractor – failed to work within the law despite having a wealth of knowledge on the risks associated with exposure to asbestos and the necessary training to have done so safely. They deliberately falsified documents and cut corners.
“Workers should be supported by their employers when they raise health or safety concern. This case sends a clear message that those responsible will be held to account for their failings.
“The dangers associated with asbestos are well known and a wealth of advice and guidance is freely available from HSE and other organisations.”
‘Asbestos does not only pose a threat to trade workers, but those they encounter’
Tim Turney, Global Marketing Manager at industrial hygiene and workplace hazard monitoring expert, Casella, shares insights on asbestos risks, legal regulations and best practice guidance for removal and monitoring to limit the potential release of dangerous, airborne fibres: “Asbestos-related diseases take the lives of 20 tradespeople every week. Left alone, the material is not harmful, but once disturbed or disintegrating, it can release asbestos fibres that infiltrate and progressively damage the lungs. The damage results in multiple health defects, such as the lung disease mesothelioma — a cancer that can take up to 20 years to develop, proving fatal within five years or less.”
“Discrepancies in sampling and analysis procedures, limitations in personal protective clothing and insufficient cleaning before a clearance pass can hinder accuracy and increase risks. Whenever asbestos is removed, it is a legal requirement to use licenced contractors and to ensure that strict regulations and guidance are followed to limit the potential release of dangerous, airborne fibres. The guidance typically includes personal air sampling and/or static air sampling, to ensure that there is no exposure during remediation work or during the cleaning and clearance processes at a removal site.”
“In the UK, a four-stage clearance process is used, involving a preliminary check of the site condition and job completeness, a thorough visual inspection inside the enclosure or work area, air monitoring and a final assessment of the post-enclosure or work area following dismantling. Licenced contractors may also take air samples before work is undertaken to establish a background level measurement. Conducting a test before disturbing any materials could save thousands of pounds on decontamination and environmental cleaning fees and help to avoid exposure. Additionally, trained professionals may take air samples during work on or near asbestos to confirm that there is no leakage from the enclosure.”
“Asbestos does not only pose a threat to trade workers, but those they encounter, should invisible yet lethal asbestos particles stick to their personal protective equipment and tools. Following stringent cleaning regimes can protect workers and their colleagues, family, and friends. All equipment must be thoroughly decontaminated to ensure there is no subsequent exposure or spread of asbestos.”
Campaigner Dr Mavis Nye talks about her work raising awareness of dangers of asbestos exposure, and we hear from Lisa Artis, Deputy CEO at The Sleep Charity, who provides three quick fixes to immediately improve your sleep…
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