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News added on 19.02.2018

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Asbestos

Asbestos exposure - who's to blame?

An unnecessary cleaning job exposed workers and others to asbestos. So who was to blame: the contractor or the company that engaged them?

Manufacturing firm Carter Brothers (Rochdale) Ltd engaged Frank Allan, trading as Jet Blast and Maintenance, to clean its premises, including a fragile asbestos cement roof. The contractor used an industrial high pressure jet wash to clean the roof. Asbestos was later found in debris around the premises.

The HSE’s investigation found that the contractor had failed to identify the risks of working with asbestos-containing materials, and had not put proper measures in place to prevent exposure to asbestos.

The manufacturing firm was found to have failed to engage a suitable contractor, and failed to monitor or supervise his work. The court heard that cleaning the roof was not even necessary and had not been agreed to by the landlord of the premises. If the work had been required, the manufacturing company should have employed a licensed contractor with access to specialist cleaning equipment.

The manufacturing company pleaded guilty to breaching its duty to safeguard those affected by its work under s.3(1) Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. It was fined £8,000, plus nearly £4,000 in costs.

The contractor pleaded guilty to breaching his duty to risk assess the work and to prevent and control exposure to asbestos under regulations 6 and 11 Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. He was fined £330, plus almost £4,000 in costs.

Both the contractor and the company that engaged him had duties to identify that asbestos-containing materials were involved and to take the proper precautions. The exposure of workers and members of the public to asbestos could have been avoided altogether if the instructing company had simply checked with the landlord whether the work was necessary.

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