Poorly-encapsulated blue asbestos posed airborne hazard
Two companies have been fined after exposing workers to asbestos over a period of years, despite being alerted to the risks at their premises.
Basildon Crown Court heard that asbestos was found in poor condition when Connect Packaging Ltd moved into industrial units in Manor Road Trading Estate, Benfleet in 2007. However, the company failed to act leaving employees exposed to risk from airborne asbestos fibres.
The company moved out of the premises in January 2009 and sublet the units to a sister company Creo Retail Marketing Ltd and continued to exercise some control over maintenance and repair work at the premises.
Creo Retail Marketing Ltd undertook its own asbestos survey in 2014 following the appointment of a new health and safety officer.
Debate over payment delayed necessary action
The asbestos survey confirmed continuing risk of exposure to airborne asbestos fibres from sources including poorly-encapsulated blue asbestos (crocidolite).
However, workers remained exposed to these risks while the two companies debated their responsibility for removal of the asbestos and failed to act effectively to prevent exposure.
HSE launched an investigation and found asbestos fibres at locations including the workers’ clocking-in point, on rafters above work areas, and within a stationery cupboard. The court heard that workers at both companies were exposed to risk over an extended period of time.
- Connect Packaging Ltd – registered at 91 Soho Hill, Birmingham was fined £65,000 and ordered to pay £8,150.23 in costs after pleading guilty to a breach of Section 4 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
- Creo Retail Marketing Ltd – registered at 350 Euston Road, London, was fined £150,000 and ordered to pay £8,149.63 in costs after pleading guilty to breaches of Sections 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
After the hearing, HSE Inspector Nikki Hughes said:
“Connect Packaging Ltd is now under new ownership but while it held the tenants-repairing-lease on the rented units it had a legal duty to manage asbestos within these non-domestic premises, as did its sub-tenant, Creo Retail Marketing Ltd.
After this asbestos was identified, both companies should have acted promptly and effectively to control the potentially lethal risk to which their workers were exposed. Asbestos-related disease has a long latency period, so we cannot predict the consequences this failure to manage asbestos may have on their workers’ health.
This prosecution should act as a reminder to all persons in control of the repair and maintenance of non-domestic premises of the need to ensure that the correct control measures are put in place to prevent exposure to asbestos, so far as is reasonably practicable.”