Asbestos – back in the news

3rd February 2023

Several businesses have been prosecuted in the last six months for asbestos issues. Whilst the pandemic interrupted regular asbestos audits and proactive safety work, now is the time to ensure that you have this risk under control in order to avoid one or more of the following.

Cases hitting the headlines

In September – Poundland Limited was fined £565,000.00 and ordered to pay £75,000.00 costs for a series of asbestos management failures. They hired asbestos consultants to survey their Ipswich building which was found to contain asbestos in several locations. The consultants undertook annually monitoring visits, but Poundland did not prepare an asbestos management plan to ensure that the asbestos remained in a safe condition.

In October – two directors of a construction company were fined after failing to ensure the safe removal of asbestos from a plot of land. They allowed the uncontrolled removal of asbestos and increased the risk of spread and exposure to asbestos panels by allowing it to be broken up with hammers before being bagged for disposal. Each was fined £1,400 and ordered to pay costs of £2,418.33.

In November – Eddie Stobart was prosecuted for failing to carry out an asbestos survey during construction work. Several workers complained about the dust created when excavating and backfilling old buildings. An investigation by HSE found an asbestos survey had not been carried prior to the work beginning to determine if any of the excavated material contained asbestos. There was no risk assessment and the workers involved hadn’t received any training in relation to asbestos. The company was fined £133,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9,260 by Manchester Magistrates Court.

In December – City Property (Glasgow) LLP was fined £200,000 by Glasgow Sheriff Court.  Their surveyor suffered severe injuries after he fell while carrying out an asbestos survey on the roof. He suffered life changing injuries including multiple skull fractures as well as a bleed to the brain and now uses a wheelchair.

In January – a director of CWE Asbestos Consultants Ltd was carrying out an asbestos survey for Global Energy Nigg Limited at its Shop 7 premises. He was injured by an electrical explosion; sustained burns to a third of his body and died three months later. Global Energy Nigg Limited were fined £80,000 by Tain Sheriff Court.

Until the end of March 2023, HSE Visiting Officers will be attending sites where asbestos work is being carried out. They will view documents and collect information.

Next steps

Review your asbestos register and carry out an audit of the asbestos using a qualified asbestos surveyor; carry out any encapsulation or removal works as recommended using a licensed asbestos contractor. Reassurance air tests will be used after asbestos has been disturbed or removed.

Asbestos still kills around 5,000 workers. The duty to manage asbestos relates to entire premises including yard areas, not just buildings. There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos.

Get in touch if you need help in managing your asbestos risk.

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