A case has come to light in the past few weeks which shows why asbestos surveys are so important.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published the details of a court case concerning a construction company which was fined after employees were exposed to asbestos.
MS Properties (Northern) Ltd has been fined for safety breaches after employees were exposed to asbestos on 22 March 2019 after removing false ceiling tiles during a shop conversion at 309-315 Hessle Road, Hull.
Beverley Magistrates’ Court heard the company had not commissioned a refurbishment asbestos survey prior to the work commencing. Employees removed over 1,000m2 of asbestos insulation board (AIB) ceiling tiles in an uncontrolled manner, exposing them to asbestos.
An investigation by the HSE found the company’s director, and the casual labourers they employed, spent approximately three to four weeks removing the suspended ceiling, along with the ceiling tiles which contained asbestos, to install new stud walls to divide the shop floor into separate units.
The labourers were unskilled and untrained. They were provided with a claw hammer to knock the tiles down. The asbestos-containing tile debris was then shovelled or collected into approximately 62 one tonne bags.
MS Properties (Northern) Limited of Beckside Business, Beckside Road, Bradford, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 5 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. The company has been fined £16,000, ordered to pay £3,011.87 in costs and a victim surcharge of £190.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Trisha Elvy commented: “If the company had identified any asbestos on the site through a refurbishment asbestos survey, carried out by a competent surveyor, and had it removed by licenced asbestos removal contractors prior to the refurbishment work commencing, then MS Properties (Northern) employees would not have been exposed to asbestos.
“No matter how small or large your company, there is a need to prevent exposing your employees and the public to asbestos by ensuring that it is identified on site prior to any work commencing.”
What does this case teach us about asbestos surveys?
As the HSE inspector in this case pointed out if a refurbishment survey had been carried out – and the asbestos had then been managed correctly – the employees would not have been exposed to asbestos.
There are different types of asbestos surveys – asbestos management surveys, asbestos refurbishment surveys and asbestos demolition surveys.
Due to the nature of this project, it was an asbestos refurbishment survey which was required.
They are used to locate and describe, as far as possible, all asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) within a building or part of a building.
These asbestos surveys are invasive and destructive because intrusive surveying techniques are used and take place when the area is unoccupied.
However, if you go ahead with a refurbishment project on a building that was erected before 2000 and you don’t have an asbestos survey you could be potentially putting lives at risk and you may find your operation is shutdown if the HSE inspectors come to call.
The good news is it doesn’t take long to have an asbestos survey completed – just make sure you do it before you start work. For instance, our highly qualified team guarantees that our clients receive their asbestos survey report within three working days and we even have faster times available, including next day.
How do asbestos surveys save lives?
Asbestos surveys save lives because they let people know where asbestos is located so that it can be properly managed and works can be carried out safely.
If materials containing asbestos are not managed properly people can be put at risk. If asbestos is disturbed or damaged it releases fibres into the air which, if inhaled, can cause serious and fatal diseases.
Those affected can develop the cancer mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, asbestosis which scars the lungs and pleural thickening which alters the lining of the lungs.
This is why – even today – asbestos remains the world’s largest workplace killer.
The sad truth is though that it’s not just the workers who come into contact with asbestos who can be affected. They may also carry asbestos fibres away from their workplace on their clothing. As a result, they may, unknowingly, also be putting their friends, family members and other people they come into contact with at risk.
It is a truly frightening situation but one that can be avoided if an asbestos survey is carried out and acted upon.
Where can I go to get an asbestos survey?
Our team at Acorn is accredited to perform asbestos management surveys, asbestos refurbishment surveys and asbestos demolition surveys and is experienced in surveying a range of different types of premises including shops, warehouses, offices, hospitals and schools.
We are an independent and impartial UKAS accredited asbestos surveying company. We have no links or affiliations to asbestos removal contractors. This puts us in a unique position to only ever provide you with ‘best practice’ advice that’s right for you.
Therefore, you can be confident that the advice and recommendations you’ll receive from us in your asbestos survey report will always be in your best interest and never influenced by third parties. So, if you need help contact us today.
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