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Firms fined for asbestos failings

Two Lincoln companies have been fined after workers were exposed to asbestos during the refurbishment of a Northamptonshire hospital ward.

One of the companies was hired by the other to carry out an asbestos survey before work began on the hospital. The survey identified an asbestos coating on the underside of the ceilings, but missed over 200 sq metres of asbestos insulation board above.

Northampton Magistrates’ Court was told that when two workers were told to knock holes in the ceilings in December 2009, they were not told it contained asbestos and they disturbed both layers.

Their masks were not the correct type, they were not wearing protective overalls and they were not working in a way that would minimise and contain the release of fibres. Asbestos material landed on their clothes, which they wore for the rest of the day increasing their chances of contamination.

The court heard the workers unwittingly increased the risk to themselves when they swept up the debris and left it in a pile on the floor. It was only discovered when a company contracted to remove the ceilings came onto the ward in January 2010 and recognised the material. A licensed asbestos removal company then spent several weeks removing the ceilings.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Martin Giles said:

"Asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK. Every year around 4,500 people die from asbestos-related diseases. It is vital that work with asbestos is properly planned and supervised and that workers are made aware of the dangers and given the correct protective equipment and training to prevent exposure to this deadly substance."

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