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    ASBESTOS SURVEY FAILED TO COVER ALL WORK AREAS

    Utilities firm fined after electricians exposed to drilled asbestos

    A utility services company based in Scotland has been fined after four employees were exposed to asbestos during work on a Motherwell residential tower block in June 2014.

    Hamilton Sheriff Court heard that the four electricians employed by IQA Operations Group Ltd were drilling through door transom panels to fit electric cables into each property within the tower block as part of the installation of a new low voltage distribution system.

    The company identified that an asbestos survey was carried out ahead of the works starting but did not include a survey of the transom panels above each flat entrance door.

    The electricians started work on the site on 23 June 2014 and drilled holes in the door transom panels in all 44 flats. The workmen were unaware that the panels contained asbestos and no measures were in place to control exposure to airborne asbestos fibres.

    A resident raised concern that the panels contained asbestos so work was stopped. The panels were tested and found to contain asbestos.

    Immediate action was taken to decontaminate the flats which involved the local council making arrangements for the residents to leave their properties while the work was undertaken.

    Survey must cover all intended work areas

    HSE investigators found that the company failed to provide and maintain a safe system of work to identify the presence of asbestos in the transom panels and failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of risk to their employees from asbestos when carrying out cable routing work.

    • IQA Operations Group Ltd – of 101 Abercorn Street, Paisley, has today been fined £6000 after pleading guilty to a breach of Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

    Speaking after the hearing, Gerry Muir HM Inspector of Health and Safety said

    “This incident could have easily been avoided if the company had in place a system of work to ensure that the asbestos survey it requested to be carried out covered all of the intended work areas.

    Failing to do this resulted in 44 asbestos panels being drilled into with no measures in place to control the risk of exposure to the resultant asbestos fibres.”

    Comment

    It appears that work on asbestos containing material (ACM) contained in the door panels was not intended. However, the asbestos survey available to the contractor did not include the doors.

    This highlights the importance of checking that all areas to be worked on during refurbishment or demolition have been subject to survey. This responsibility rests with the employer of those undertaking the refurbishment work.

    The HSE Asbestos Essentials publications shows how such work can be undertaken if work on ACMs is intended. See image below.

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