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WILFUL DISREGARD FOR ASBESTOS RISK JAILS ‘BUILDERS’

Brothers given custodial sentence for exposing workers to asbestos

Two Stoke-on-Trent brothers with little or no experience of building and construction work have been given prison sentences after they exposed workers to asbestos.

At least seven workers are known to have been exposed to asbestos caused by the actions of Akram Hussain and Inam Hussain during refurbishment work at a former print works on Scotia Road, Burslem, since February 2012.

Stafford Crown Court heard (20 August) that neither man was qualified or experienced in construction, demolition or refurbishment work; nor were they licensed to remove asbestos. The brothers had been carrying out work on the building for around ten years.

HSE investigators found work was being carried out without the necessary asbestos surveys and without a CDM Co-ordinator appointed.

Repeat HSE visits and enforcement

Despite repeated visits from HSE inspectors and numerous enforcement notices warning of their failings, the brothers continued to refurbish the building and disturb asbestos material – putting workers at risk.

A Prohibition Notice was issued on 17 February 2012 stopping all work with, or liable to disturb, asbestos. A ‘Direction to Leave Undisturbed’ was also issued for the building until HSE had provided written confirmation that work could continue.

However, several lorry-loads of waste contaminated with asbestos were removed from the site and taken to an unlicensed waste disposal site in Stoke-on-Trent. Workers were also witnessed exiting the site covered in dust and not wearing the correct protective clothing.

Further Prohibition and Improvement Notices were served and although an asbestos survey was later carried out work inside the building continued to disturb materials containing asbestos.

Chose to ignore the “hidden killer” dangers

Akram Hussain and Inam Hussain both pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Akram Hussain was given a custodial sentence of 22 months and ordered to pay costs of £43,000. Inam Hussain was given a custodial sentence of 14 months.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Lindsay Hope said:

“The Hussains have shown a willful disregard for the health and safety of workers and others. Our investigation uncovered a catalogue of serious errors, safety failings and a disregard of the laws around the safe and correct removal of asbestos.

This was an appalling case of failing to properly plan, manage and resource this project, which led to workers being exposed to risks to their health from asbestos.

It is essential at the outset of a building refurbishment to first seek specialist advice regarding the possible presence of asbestos within that building. Only with the full knowledge of what is present, or not, can any asbestos then be dealt with safely.

Failure to identify and deal with any asbestos can lead to it being damaged and people then breathing in the fibres. The Hussains failed in their duty by choosing to ignore the dangers of this hidden killer.”

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