Firm in court after exposing workers to asbestos

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A construction firm has been fined by the Health and Safety Executive after it was found guilty of exposing workers to asbestos fibres…

Marden Homes Ltd has been fine £50,000 for exposing workers to potentially deadly asbestos fibres.

The firm was commissioned to convert an office block in Witham, Essex, into residential flats in July 2012. The project involved removing a disused boiler and pipes from the former Plant Room.

Marden Homes Ltd was prosecuted at Chelmsford Magistrates Court after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company had not arranged for a Refurbishment and Demolition Asbestos Survey to be available to the workers on site.

This meant employees were unable to identify the presence of asbestos before they removed the boiler and pipework. The result of this was the potential exposure to asbestos fibres.

Additionally, the company failed to give relevant training to one of the workers to enable him to identify whether the materials he was removing were likely to contain asbestos.

In 2013, the HSE had given the firm advice regarding the need for the survey to be carried out prior to work commencing that would likely disturb asbestos. The company was also in receipt of an Improvement Notice, which required them to provide their employees with asbestos awareness training.

Alongside the £50,000 fine, the company was also hit with costs of £1,413. Marden Homes Ltd entered a guilty plea for three breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

The regulation states: “Every employer must ensure that any employee employed by that employer is given adequate information, instruction and training where that employee is liable to be exposed to asbestos, or if that employee supervises such employees, so that those employees are aware of the properties of asbestos and its effects on health.”

It also states: “Every employer must prevent or, where this is not reasonably practicable, reduce to the lowest level reasonably practicable the spread of asbestos from any place where work under the employer’s control is carried out.”

HSE Inspector David King said: “Exposure to asbestos fibres is a serious and well known health risk, so it is essential that duty-holders take suitable and sufficient measures to prevent the disturbance, spread and exposure to asbestos.

“Guidance on managing the risks of asbestos is widely and freely available. Asbestos has been subject to regulations since 1931 and relevant to the construction industry since 1969.

“Therefore failing to take action to identify the location and type of asbestos present during planning of the work, not communicating that information to workers/contractors who may disturb the asbestos and then not taking appropriate measures to protect the health of those exposed is absolutely inexcusable.”

Breathing in asbestos fibres has serious risks to health. Around 4,500 people die each year as a result, making it the largest single cause of work-related deaths in the UK. Fibres can become airborne and lodge in the lungs and digestive tract. This can cause lung cancer or other diseases, which often do not show symptoms for many years.

Further information on asbestos can be found here: www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/index.htm

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