A string of recent prosecutions demonstrate the need for adequate asbestos management procedures.
Asbestos is likely to be the last thing on the minds of employers, particularly in light of the worsening economic conditions faced by many. However, heavy fines are being dished out to those who fall foul of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.
Duty holders of non-domestic premises have been required, since 2002, to identify where asbestos is on their premises and to put into place a plan for managing it to ensure workers are not exposed to deadly fibres. Only last year a Bristol-based company were fined £18k plus costs when workers at their Lawrence Hill site were exposed to asbestos during refurbishment works.
More recent cases have demonstrated that having an asbestos survey is not enough. Nottingham City Council were fined £30k plus costs last month after a visiting contractor spotted suspect debris on the floor of an occupied building. The investigation concluded that even though the Council had an asbestos survey and management plan in place, the exposure had still occurred. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) stated:
"The council failed to identify that its own asbestos policy had not been implemented at the depot. It's all well and good having policies in place but they are meaningless unless they are put into practice and in this case, around 150 people were needlessly exposed to a potentially fatal substance."
Another common area of breach is when carrying out refurbishment or alterations. The Regulations require a more detailed survey be carried out of the affected areas. Failure to do so can result in exposure to asbestos which was not known about, such as in the conversion of a Leicestershire restaurant, which resulted in total fines totalling over £6k earlier this month. The HSE inspector outlined the failings:
"Before starting work the company should have carried out a survey to ascertain if asbestos was present and then arranged for it to be removed safely by a licensed company. By failing to do that, they put people's health at risk by contaminating a public area with asbestos.”
Practical advice for managing asbestos is available from the Health and Safety Executive at
Kenneth & Edwards will continue to stay on top of the latest enforcement action and are kept busy surveying and advising clients on the proper management of asbestos.
Patrick O’Connor BSc (Hons) MRICS
For and on behalf of Kenneth and Edwards Limited
5 Summerhill Road, St George, Bristol, BS5 8HG
Tel 01179 411 401
Mob 07900 497 640