Fines levied for ignoring potential asbestos risk
A leaseholder of a catering business has recently been handed down a severe fine of £10,000, plus £5,000 costs and a £500 victim surcharge after removing asbestos insulation board without taking the proper and legally required precautions. The law is very clear on the matter – it is laid down in detail in the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 – and the risks taken by the restaurateur were enormous.
He was controlling construction work which involved removal of asbestos from soffits in the premises and, despite the serving of a Prohibition Notice to prevent further work taking place, work continued on his instruction. No suitable measures were taken to control the spread of asbestos fibres and after removal, the debris was left outside the building, by definition creating a risk to the public.
Asbestos fibres are so tiny and light that they easily become airborne and stay in the air until breathed in, at which point they can lodge in the lungs, creating problems for an unsuspecting victim possibly many decades down the line. After the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) case was heard, the inspector who brought the action said, ‘Asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK, with some 4,500 deaths each year due to asbestos-related diseases, as well as many serious illnesses.
For this reason, work with asbestos requires a high degree of regulatory control to ensure it is carried out safely. [The leaseholder] decided to ignore the fact an asbestos licence was required to undertake this work and his actions not only put those working on site and members of the public at risk.’ As can be seen from the size of the fine, the HSE have a zero tolerance to all works involving asbestos where a licensed contractor is not used or proper precautions taken.
Keeping staff educated and informed is easy – the United Kingdom Asbestos Training Association (UKATA) has information and special courses. Boss Training offer several UKATA courses in how to identify and deal with asbestos in a building and for any contractor who may encounter the substance in the course of any construction work, these courses are an excellent way to make sure that not only will all staff and the public be kept safe, but also that they will not be served with a non-compliance notice, which, as can be seen above, is very costly.
Whether the company deals with asbestos very rarely (in which case the UKATA course on asbestos awareness also available online is the appropriate course) or encounters it more regularly (UKATA non-licensed asbestos removal course), proper training is vital.
Asbestos is perhaps one of the deadliest of any materials likely to be encountered on a daily basis in construction, renovation or demolition and even though the exposure may be small, there are no guidelines as to what is a safe dose – indeed, the only way to be sure that a person will not succumb to an asbestos-related illness causing severe disability or death is to make sure that not one single fibre is every breathed in!