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    Major client and contractor failed to plan for and manage asbestos danger

    Dairy Crest Limited and Rochdale Electric Welding Company Limited (REWCO) have been fined for exposing employees to asbestos containing material at an industrial site in Devon in May 2010.

    The asbestos fibres were released during work to remove industrial boilers, associated fixed pipework and a boiler house at a redundant Dairy Crest site near Totnes. The material remained exposed until a clean-up operation belatedly commenced two days later.

    Plymouth Crown Court heard that Dairy Crest agreed to sell boilers from redundant plant to REWCO including the dismantling of all associated fixed plant pipework at two sites and demolishing the boiler house at Totnes. The Court heard:

    • Enquiries – boilers removed without sufficient enquiries to determine whether asbestos was present; 
    • Survey – a suitable survey carried out by Dairy Crest some years previously was not passed on;
    • Precautions – removal was carried out wearing normal work clothes which were contaminated; and 
    • Risk – workmen could potentially face long-term respiratory problems and incurable lung diseases.

    HSE inspectors visited the site on 27 May 2010 and found widespread contamination. Steps were immediately taken to prevent any further risk to anybody on the site or nearby.

    Clear failure to identify, manage and control asbestos

    Dairy Crest Limited, of Esher, Surrey, was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay a further £22,214 in costs after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 in its capacity as the main duty holder for the site.

    Rochdale Electric Welding Company Limited, of Middleton, Greater Manchester, pleaded guilty to two breaches of the same legislation for its role in undertaking the work. The company was fined a total of £8,000 with £13,786 in costs.

    Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector, Martin Lee said:

    “This was a very serious incident that could severely impact on the future health of the employees who worked with and near the asbestos. Both Dairy Crest Ltd and Rochdale Electric Welding Company Ltd committed safety failings that led to them being needlessly exposed to dangerous dust and fibres.

    There were clear failings by both companies to identify and properly manage and control the asbestos containing material before work started, and to provide appropriate protection for workers when it did.

    Regulations on dealing safely with asbestos have been in place for many years and are widely known in the industry.

    This totally needless incident would not have happened if Dairy Crest Ltd had provided Rochdale Electric Welding Company with the results of its asbestos survey and if Rochdale Electric Welding Company had carried out proper enquiries before commencing work at the site.”

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