Asbestos Health and Safety
The hazards of asbestos have long been common knowledge and there are strict regulations in place to ensure that anyone who is working with the material or involved in work where it might be present is protected. However, the consequences of breaking those regulations can be severe, both in terms of health risks for those doing the work and for the companies who are found guilty.
Two companies have been fined a total of £14,000 after unsafe asbestos work was carried out on a property.
Bourne Valley Construction Services (BVCS) had been given the job but sub-contracted out the work to Kingston Asbestos Services (KAS).
KAS agreed that they would carry out repair works. During work to remove damaged wall coverings in the kitchen area, a worker cut into a piece of boarding that turned out to be asbestos insulation board.
The HSE began an investigation and discovered that BVCS had failed to plan the work and pass on appropriate information to KAS. Both companies were jointly responsible for making arrangements for the refurbishment and demolition survey. Because of this, the work was carried out without any idea of whether asbestos was on site, how much might be there and how widespread it could be.
Bourne Valley Construction Services Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 13 (2) of the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2007. They were fined £8,000 and ordered to pay full costs.
Kingsley Asbestos Services Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 5 (1) (a) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. They were fined £6,000 and ordered to pay full costs.
The HSE said that about five thousand people still die due to asbestos each year, with around twenty tradesmen dying each week because of previous exposure to the substance.
Because BVCS were in control of the works, they should have provided information identified in an asbestos survey or assessment to KAS as their subcontractor.
So what could have caused this work to be carried out without the correct asbestos refurbishment and demolition survey being carried out?
Cutting corners, cost/time saving
Bad communication or confusion
What is more saddening in this case is that both companies should be aware of the devastating effect asbestos has on the lungs and the appalling loss of life that this can cause.
The devastation that asbestos can cause is just as real as a fall from height, despite the effects of the substance not becoming apparent for many years.
What could have been done?
Ensure the work is planned and carried out in line with current legislation.
Engage a competent asbestos surveyor to survey to the correct level for the anticipated work.
The samples should be analysed by a UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service) accredited laboratory.
Once the asbestos results are back, the findings should dictate how you proceed.
Do not cut corners – if you are not sure about material on which work is due to be carried out, have the suspected area analysed.
Ensure all staff have received the correct level of training for their task and remember to carry out refresher training.
Always make sure the work has been properly planned.
Carry out contractor/sub-contractor checks to ensure they are competent for their intended task.
Check the sub-contractor complies with all the planned work. Do not leave it to chance.
Communicate and monitor that all the instructions are understood by everyone involved.