An Essex construction firm has been fined £50,000 after potentially exposing workers to asbestos fibres.
In July 2012, Marden Homes Ltd was commissioned to convert an office block in Witham into residential flats, which involved removing an old boiler and pipes. During the process, employees disturbed lagging containing asbestos fibres.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Marden Homes at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court in June after establishing that the company had not arranged for a refurbishment and demolition asbestos survey to be available to the workers. This meant that they were unable to identify the presence of asbestos before carrying out the work, leading to potential exposure to asbestos fibres.
One worker involved had received no training to enable him to identify whether the materials he was removing were liable to contain asbestos.
Marden Homes Ltd of Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,413 after pleading guilty to three breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector David King said: “Exposure to asbestos fibres is a serious and well known health risk, so it is essential that duty-holders take suitable and sufficient measures to prevent the disturbance, spread and exposure to asbestos. Guidance on managing the risks of asbestos is widely and freely available.”
He described the company’s failures around identifying the location and type of asbestos while planning the work, lack of communication with workers and taking measures to protect workers’ health as “absolutely inexcusable.”
Around 4,500 people die every year as a result of breathing in asbestos fibres, making it the biggest single cause of work-related deaths in the UK.
All employers are legally required to protect the health, safety and welfare of employees and any other people who might be affected by their activities, by assessing risks of injury or damage to health that could occur in the workplace and taking steps to manage and control these risks.
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