Have you ever wondered what the consequences could be if a company fails to protect workers from asbestos exposure?
At Acorn, we work hard to educate the public about the dangers of asbestos which remains the world’s biggest workplace killer.
When asbestos is disturbed it releases tiny fibres into the air which can cause a range of devastating and fatal conditions, including mesothelioma, asbestosis and asbestos-related lung cancer.
Thousands of people in the UK die from asbestos-related diseases every year. Some of these deaths relate to illnesses which were caused by asbestos exposure before the use of the hazardous substance was banned here 20 years.
However, some of these fatalities relate to more recent asbestos exposure incidents because even though asbestos isn’t being used here any more it remains in many of our homes, garages, hospitals, schools and other public buildings.
This is why if you are carrying out any kind of maintenance, refurbishment or demolition work on a property built before 2000 you should always get an asbestos survey first so you can identify if asbestos is present, where it is, what type it is and how it should be managed.
We’ve talked about the health risks posed by asbestos exposure but are you aware that failure to manage asbestos properly can lead to other risks for businesses and their staff?
Company in court for failing to protect workers from asbestos exposure
We recently heard about a case which shows what can happen to a company and its staff if they are prosecuted for breaking health and safety laws relating to asbestos.
At the end of last month, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that an asbestos management company had been fined £100,000 and two of its employees had been jailed for failing to protect workers from asbestos exposure during a major refurbishment project in Plymouth.
Chelmsford Crown Court heard that in February 2017, concerns were raised by workers at Ensure Asbestos Management Limited who believed they were being put in danger whilst carrying out refurbishment work at a former department store.
An investigation by the HSE 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 and 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 was sentenced to 10 months in prison and was 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 was 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 concerns. 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.”
What can we learn from this case?
This case shows how important it is that people manage the threat of asbestos and asbestos exposure correctly. Failure to do so can put people’s lives at risk and lead to companies and individuals being prosecuted.
There are literally thousands of entries on the HSE website featuring advice and guidance about asbestos and asbestos exposure for anyone who is unsure about their responsibilities when it comes to asbestos.
For anyone who finds this too daunting we’d urge you not to bury your head in the sand because the consequences of doing so can be catastrophic to individuals and businesses.
If you need help you are welcome to contact our award-winning team of experts to arrange a free asbestos review surgery.
During a 30-minute video call you will get the opportunity to discuss and diagnose your current asbestos compliance status.
This call could literally save lives and could protect your business and you and your colleagues from prosecution.
Acorn is a professional asbestos consultancy helping organisations deal with asbestos compliance using asbestos surveys, asbestos air testing, and asbestos removal management.Please call one of the team, or use the online form to obtain your free quotation. If you would like further information or advice on asbestos and asbestos training, contact the team on 0844 818 0895 or Contact Us