Property firm sentenced after worker exposed to asbestos
A Cardiff letting agent has been sentenced after a handyman was exposed to asbestos-containing material while carrying out work on a client’s property.
A self-employed handyman from Cardiff, who does not wish to be named, regularly carried out work on properties managed by Rochefort Shugar Ltd and on 15 October 2010 was sent to a domestic property in Sully to fix a leaking porch roof.
As he was removing a sheet of material from the underside panel of the damaged roof, he realised it was asbestos-containing insulation board. The sheet was broken during removal and the surrounding area was contaminated with asbestos debris.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuting, told Barry Magistrates’ Court the removal of the panel and the sweeping up and bagging of the debris would have resulted in the significant release of asbestos fibres into the air.
The handyman wore two dust masks while removing the board on 15 October 2010, but did not undergo any decontamination procedures and was not wearing a protective, disposable suit. The court heard the fibres could have contaminated his hair, skin and clothing and may also have been inhaled.
When asbestos fibres are inhaled they can cause serious diseases which are responsible for around 4,000 deaths a year. There are four main diseases caused by asbestos, all of which can develop much later after exposure – they are mesothelioma (which is always fatal); lung cancer (almost always fatal); asbestosis (not always fatal, but it can be very debilitating) and diffuse pleural thickening.
The HSE investigation found the handyman had not been given any indication asbestos was present in the property, No risk assessment was carried out or method statement compiled, and Rochefort Shugar made no attempt to ensure he was competent to identify or work with asbestos.
A licensed asbestos contractor was later called in to decontaminate the area, to ensure no further people were put at risk of exposure to the substance.