Prison sentences as HSE cracks down on Asbestos negligence
Two brothers from Northwest England have been given prison sentences after exposing their workers to deadly asbestos. In the prosecution it was noted that a minimum of seven workers were exposed to asbestos, with one of the workers aged only 17. The work in question was refurbishment at an old print works, the work was started in February 2012 and was on-going until the recent prosecution.
The prosecution began after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) discovered that the work was being carried out without an asbestos survey and without a Construction Co-ordinator. The first step that the Health and Safety Executive took was to issue a prohibition notice on 17th February 2012. This notice declared that all work was to cease until the HSE permitted that work could continue.
Further from this, another prohibition notice and improvement notice was served just 8 days later on the 25th February, when workers were still found to be working without an asbestos survey or Construction Co-ordinator. A separate Prohibition Notice was served on 18th May 2012 for the non-licensed removal of asbestos from the building.
The notices were recognised by the defendants but they were not adhered to, as work continued. Lorry loads of rubbish contaminated with asbestos were removed from the site and disposed at an unlicensed site. It was also noted that workers were still seen exiting the building coated in dust and not wearing the proper protective clothing.
Both defendants pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at work act. One of the brothers was given a custodial sentence of 22 weeks and to pay costs of £43,000. The second brother was given 14 weeks.
Lindsay Hope, HSE inspector commented with the following “This was an appalling case of failing to properly plan, manage and resource this project, which led to workers being exposed to risks to their health from asbestos”.
Stories of asbestos and mesothelioma related deaths have been rising in recent years with the effects of exposure not becoming apparent until years after contact with asbestos. Incidents such as this, highlight that asbestos negligence is still a factor in modern construction even though the severity of asbestos exposure is heavily publicised.