An Ammanford-based knitwear company and a cladding firm site foreman have been fined for putting workers and visitors at risk of exposure to asbestos.
Corgi Hosiery Ltd contracted Dragon Cladding Ltd to remove an asbestos cement sheet roof at their New Road branch in Ammanford, Carmarthenshire
Having received a complaint about the work, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) visited the site and found roofers had removed the asbestos sheets from the roof, but they had also removed plaster-like material from the underside of the sheets and structural steelwork.
HSE inspectors stopped the work immediately and tests confirmed the plaster-like material contained asbestos.
On further investigation it was found that Dragon Cladding Ltd's site foreman had instructed two workers to use a hammer and chisel to remove the plaster-like material from the building steelwork.
Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court heard no effort was made to establish what this material was prior to work commencing, and the debris was swept into domestic black bin bags and placed in open skips.
Throughout the duration of the work, Corgi Hosiery employees had continuous access to the main building, with one worker based in the area throughout the works. Visitors to the premises were not excluded from the works area and were also potentially exposed to asbestos.
HSE inspector Anne Marie Orrells said:
"Nowadays, the risks of exposure to asbestos are well known so this serious incident was inexcusable.
"Had Mr Phillips adequately assessed the risks prior to the start of the work, it would have been apparent that the work should have been carried out by an asbestos-licensed contractor, under controlled conditions.
"Corgi Hosiery Limited should have ensured measures were taken to exclude employees and visitors from the area while the roof work was being carried out overhead. As a result of these failings both workers and visitors to their premises were exposed to potentially deadly asbestos-containing materials."
When asbestos fibres are inhaled they can cause serious diseases which are responsible for around 4,000 deaths a year.