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Employers Fail to Protect Employees from Asbestos Exposure

Many companies are still failing to comply with the strict rules and regulations that govern the handling of asbestos and as a result are putting the health and wellbeing of their employees at serious risk. 

Deaths from Mesothelioma

Exposure to asbestos can be deadly, and figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that 2,515 people died in Great Britain in 2014 from mesothelioma, one of the most common forms of asbestos related cancer.

HSE explains that mesothelioma is a form of cancer mainly affecting the lining of the lungs. It takes many years to develop following the inhalation of asbestos fibres, but is usually rapidly fatal following disease onset.

The latest projections suggest that there will continue to be around 2,500 deaths per year for the rest of this current decade before annual numbers begin to decline.

Asbestos Exposure Investigations

HSE is often called upon to investigate and prosecute companies that have failed to ensure that any potential exposure to asbestos is managed safely.

In one such case, a home improvement company was fined after the unsafe removal of asbestos material from a domestic property.

An investigation by the HSE found that the Asbestos Insulation Board soffits surrounding the underside of the guttering around the front, gable end and back of the property had been dismantled in an unsafe manner, creating the serious risk of respiratory exposure to asbestos fibres to the two workers and the residents of the property. The investigation also found that the company was not licensed to remove asbestos.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 8(1) and Regulation 16 of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2012, and The Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, Section 33 (1) (g) in that it failed to comply with an Improvement Notice, and was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,118.50.

Employer Failings

In a second incident, a school in Essex was prosecuted after poorly-planned and managed refurbishment and maintenance activities exposed school staff and others to asbestos.

During work to convert an old boiler room, asbestos residue on the walls was disturbed and caretakers swept contaminated debris from floors. Their exposure to risk only came to light after a later asbestos survey was completed in the area.

An investigation revealed that asbestos containing materials were also present in other areas of the school, putting the health of people who had carried out work in these areas over many years at risk.

The school pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 – Sections 2(1) & 3(1) and was fined £26,000 and ordered to pay costs of £20,000.

“This prosecution should act as a reminder, not just to schools but to all persons in control of the repair and maintenance of non-domestic premises, of the need to ensure that a suitable and sufficient assessment of risk from asbestos is carried out, and that correct control measures are put in place to ensure that exposure to asbestos is prevented, so far as is reasonably practicable,” commented HSE Inspector Glyn Davies.

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

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