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Exposure to Asbestos Continues

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Two recent prosecutions by the Health and Safety Executive confirm that exposure to asbestos is still taking place in the workplace despite all of the information available regarding the dangers involved.

hlw Keeble hawson logoIn the first prosecution a building contractor has been fined £50,000.00 and ordered to pay costs for ignoring asbestos safety rules.  Asbestos material was found in the basement area at an independent school where they were carrying out work.

The Company had commissioned a specialist survey to identify the presence of asbestos but they then failed to act on it when the results were positive. 

Matters were compounded when the Company allowed different contractors to work in the area until one worker raised the alarm.

The incident came to light in 2011 but the prosecution has only just come before the Court.

In a separate prosecution a Rochdale based re-upholstery firm and one of its company directors were fined after workers were exposed to asbestos fibres for nearly five years.  In this particular case up to 30 employees were potentially exposed to the airborne fibres at the premises.

The Company, which refurbishes furniture for pubs, restaurants and hotels, had moved into premises in September 2007 and created a Mezzanine storage area in the eaves of the roof.  Workers placed foam for furniture in the storage space often placing it on the beams and underside of the roof which it later emerged contained asbestos.  As the employees dragged the foam through the eaves before throwing it down onto the floor, fine layers of asbestos dust were released into the air.

Matters came to light when a HSE Inspector visited the Company in June 2012 on a separate issue.   An Improvement Notice was issued after it was discovered that they had failed to arrange for an asbestos survey to be carried out despite employees raising concerns that asbestos may be present.

When the survey was eventually completed, it revealed asbestos was present in the roof and that fibres were likely to have spread throughout the building.

A Prohibition Notice was served banning access to the building until it had been decontaminated.  However, a Company Director and another worker re-entered the building during the evening on the same day to remove furniture worth approximately £25,000.00 so it could be delivered to a client thereby breaching the terms of the Prohibition Notice.

The Company were fined £30,000.00 for the relevant breaches and the Company Director £10,000.00 after he admitted deliberately breaching the Prohibition Notice.  Both were also ordered to pay costs.

These two recent prosecutions only serve to confirm that asbestos is still not being dealt with appropriately thereby exposing workers to the potentially harmful effects which are unlikely to manifest themselves for many years to come. 

If you think you may have been exposed to asbestos and/or are suffering relevant symptoms then please contact David Eade on 01302 308673 or davideade@hlwkeeblehawson.co.uk

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