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SMALL CONTRACTOR PROSECUTED FOR ASBESTOS RISK

Principal contractor information on asbestos ignored by errant contractor

A contractor has been prosecuted for exposing workers to asbestos. Wayne Priestley, 47, of Tuxford, Nottinghamshire, was engaged to remove asbestos-containing materials from a building ahead of demolition.

The principal contractor (Quarnmill Construction Ltd) provided a building survey detailing the location of the asbestos. The survey stated that in several places a licensed contractor was required to remove the material. Quarnmill Construction has already been prosecuted.

Mr Priestley claimed asbestos removal was within his capability, despite not holding a licence to carry out this type of work. Mr Priestley denied seeing the particular instruction within the survey.

The court heard that between 6 and 9 October 2009 Mr Priestley arranged four men to carry out the work. He took them to the site on the first day and gave them some basic instructions, but left them unsupervised. He did not share the contents of the asbestos survey with the men but provided a crowbar, overalls and masks.

The material removed was put in a small open skip and transferred later to a sealed skip. The workers therefore handled asbetos twice during the removal process. The driver of the skip removal lorry was also exposed to asbestos.

HSE scientists revealed the site was badly contaminated by asbestos debris with large fragments of AIB remaining stuck to walls and ceilings where panels had been broken away.

Shocking disregard for well-being of workforce

Wayne Priestley pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 for numerous safety failings relating to the exposure. He was ordered to serve 300 hours of community service within a 12 month period and ordered to pay costs of £500.

HSE inspector Carol Southerd said:

“Wayne Priestley has shown a shocking disregard for the well-being of his workforce, and that of a skip removal driver.

His unsuitability was eventually discovered after a consultant checked the HSE website and reported him, but by this time it was too late. Mr Priestley’s men had been on site for three to four days and the site was thoroughly contaminated with damaged asbestos debris. The workers had been exposed to asbestos throughout this time.

Asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK. Employers need to protect their workers now to prevent them contracting an asbestos-related disease in the future.

The health effects to all these men may not be known for decades as the life-threatening conditions that asbestos exposure can lead to can take a long time to develop.”

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