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RECENT HIGH PROFILE ASBESTOS PROSECUTIONS

Contractors, major retailer and pub chain all fined over asbestos failures

Over recent weeks three significant prosecutions have been concluded regarding breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006. These involved:

East Anglian Construction Ltd – fined £30,000 over removal of asbestos from a property in the city of Norwich. The charges concerned two incidents in 2007 and 2008. Employees removed asbestos insulating board tiles from ceilings when the company was not licensed to carry out the work. 

The Council health and safety officer said:

“These were not trivial health and safety matters and I hope that others who may be thinking of acting in the same way think again.

The dangers of working with asbestos are well known and have been for many years and those in control of premises should know what they are dealing with.”

John Lewis and Morris and Spottiswood – both fined £20,000 for failing to undertake proper checks for asbestos during refurbishment work in and Edinburgh store in 2008. Asbestos was disturbed during the work and 15 staff were potentially exposed.

Sheriff Elizabeth Jarvie said: 

“This was a serious and disturbing case but in any event no-one sustained any harm. As soon as discovery was made effective and immediate action was taken by the companies. 

On no view could it be said that either company was cavalier in their approach to the regulations indeed quite the reverse seems to have been the case in that systems were in place.

Since the incident a thorough investigation was undertaken to ensure such incidents will not occur in the future. Both companies have incurred considerable expense in putting these systems in place.”

John Lewis Edinburgh, managing director, Barry Matheson, said:

“John Lewis takes today’s decision of the court seriously. “This incident has shaped stringent new health and safety protocols, which have now been implemented at John Lewis. “Comprehensive new training, refresher courses, clearer communication and senior management involvement has been introduced as standard across all our branches in the UK.”

Mitchells and Butlers (M&B) – fined £14,001 after three electricians and two plumbers were put at risk of inhaling asbestos fibres at a Darlington in 2007. 

Workers used power tools to drill asbestos containing ceiling tiles. The company admitted failing to undertake a proper assessment and exposing people to risk. The company was ordered to pay prosecution costs of £11,781.

HSE Inspector Victoria Wise said:

“Construction and maintenance workers are among those most at risk from asbestos-related diseases due to the nature of their work.

Asbestos is still widely present in buildings constructed prior to 2000, so workers can often inadvertently disturb materials containing asbestos if the correct survey has not been carried out to check for its presence and appropriate control measures put in place.

Such workers should have asbestos awareness training so that they can recognise that some materials may contain asbestos and know what action to take.”

One of the workers involved said:

“Because the effects of asbestos take a long time to show up, the worry of whether the asbestos has caused lasting damage to my health will stay with me for years.It is a huge worry for my partner also, as there is a chance that she might have been exposed to fibres that were brought home on my work clothes.”

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