Brown Asbestos removal puts workers in danger


Brown asbestos is a particularly deadly form of this dangerous material and one which requires extra safety measures to protect the public; but even more importantly in view of the handling risk, those who have to remove it safely and put it beyond harm.

This is why anyone involved in health and safety within the construction industry should heed what happened in a case that came to court this month. If you are a CDM Coordinator you need to know that the specialists who are sub-contracted to do such removal are carrying out best practice. Yet here is a case where a licensed asbestos removal contractor has been fined for risking exposure to its workers while carrying out part of a refurbishment project in Warwickshire.

The HSE prosecuted AG&M Ltd because they did not properly maintain a decontamination unit and the workers’ PPE, in particular their respiratory masks.

The company also did not have a trained supervisor on site at the building in question in Station Road, Kenilworth.

Frozen Shower Danger

It was a cold January 2011 and the shower that the two workers needed to use, couldn’t be used because the water had frozen in the hosepipe which supplied it. Showering is the last and most critical phase of decontamination: even in extreme weather, if men are working, there needs to be a heating system that will allow them to shower properly.

The two men were removing ceiling tiles containing amosite (brown asbestos) and had it not been for the inspector, could not know that there was no water supply until they had begun their cleaning process and were trying to complete it in the shower. Some asbestos would remain and risk injuring them.

Other problems found by the inspector were a damaged vent, a broken door hinge and that the shower compartment door would not close properly (which cannot have helped its icy state). These issues should have been picked up by a proper daily inspection, which had not been recorded.

The worker’s employer, AG&M Ltd of Sheffield, was found guilty at Nuneaton Magistrates’ Court of breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The fine was £10,000 and as is usual in such cases, the company has to pay HSE’s prosecution costs of £5,349.

As the inspector commented, licensed asbestos contractors have to achieve the highest standards of control to prevent exposure and potential spreading of risk.

This is important because even though it may not be used in construction today, decades of its use and the hazards when it decays or is broken up make asbestos the biggest single cause of work-related deaths in the UK. It is estimated that 4,000 people die each year from diseases of the lung like mesothelioma.

If you want to ensure your construction safety is up to the mark in terms of asbestos, its handling and training on how to deal with it, or any other aspect of health and safety, consult McCormack Benson Health & Safety. Their countrywide team of trained and time-served consultants help contractors to cope with the bewildering array of legislation and alert them to better practices that can deal with inspection issues before, during and after visits.

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