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ROOFLINE CONTRACTOR ERRED OVER ASBESTOS RISK

Firm fined after labourer exposed whilst removing AIB soffit 

The owner of a cladding installation business has been fined after workmen where exposed to risk from airborne asbestos fibres at a house in Bedfordshire.

PMF Cladding (Michael Southern T/A) instructed an employee and a casual labourer to remove and replace soffit boards during refurbishment work at the property in Sharnbrook in August 2011.

Bedford Magistrates’ Court heard (3 July) that Mr Southern had not carried out a suitable survey in advance to determine whether asbestos was present and did not hold a licence to undertake work with the asbestos insulating board (AIB). A neighbour informed Mr Southern that the soffits were made of asbestos insulating board. 

A complaint was made to HSE prompting an inspector to visit and halt further work. HSE’s investigators found that Mr Southern was aware from previous jobs that soffit boards may contain asbestos but had not taken this into account when assessing this job.

He had also failed to provide information and training to workers who could be exposed to asbestos fibres.

Cladding business owner should have known about asbestos danger

Michael William Southern (PMF Cladding T/A) of Huntingdon was fined £7,015 and ordered to pay £3,200 in costs after pleading guilty to four breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 on 30 August 2011.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Gavin Bull, said:

“Mr Southern, as a person running a cladding installation business, should have been in no doubt about the dangers posed by asbestos and of the regulations governing work with this material. Despite this, he progressed this work without testing the material to be removed for the presence of asbestos. This resulted in those working there being exposed to risk of inhaling airborne asbestos fibres without taking any suitable precautions.

This incident was entirely preventable and highlights the importance of having a robust asbestos management system in place.

Dutyholders should identify the type, location and condition of all asbestos-containing materials, and establish appropriate precautions, before starting removal operations. This is all the more important for this type of higher-risk notifiable work, which should only have been performed by a licensed contractor.”

HSE stress that asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK. It is responsible for around 4,500 deaths each year. Asbestos is still present in many buildings and any work likely to disturb the asbestos needs to be positively managed to prevent exposure.

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