Director and company fined after unlicensed asbestos removal

A Wiltshire based asbestos removal company and one of its Directors have been sentenced after removing licensable asbestos materials in an unsafe manner.

Winchester Crown Court heard that on 8 March 2013 the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) received a concern from an employee of a construction company hired to demolish the Forresters Respite Centre in Hythe.

Sarum Asbestos Limited (SAL) had been contracted to conduct an asbestos survey and then arrange for the removal of any identified asbestos material before demolition work could begin on site.

An investigation by the HSE found that Sarum Asbestos Ltd had undertaken similar work in other locations and failed to ensure that this work with asbestos was undertaken in a safe manner by competent personnel. They also failed to undertake further testing on these sites to ensure that the asbestos had been removed safely and as a result placed workers at risk of exposure to asbestos fibres, as well as putting members of the public at risk. The investigation also found the company’s Director, Jeremy Uphill, ignored the legal requirements for the licensed removal of asbestos containing material.

Sarum Asbestos Limited of Pound Lane, Charlton All Saints, Wiltshire pleaded guilty to the six charges: Sections 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 for the work conducted at Forresters Respite Centre. These charges concern risks to their own operatives and members of the public. The company also pleaded guilty to the same charges for work conducted at Corsham Police Station. Sarum Asbestos Ltd also pleaded guilty of breaching Regulation 11 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 for work conducted at Moonfleet Manor, Weymouth, regarding a failure to control personal exposures to asbestos. It also admitted the same charge for work conducted at Camberwell Reform Church in London.

At Salisbury Crown Court the company has been fined a total of £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £31,000. Jeremy Uphill of Boyds Road, Pimperne, Dorset also pleaded guilty to the same six charges, and was given a total of six months imprisonment suspended for two years.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Adam Wycherley said:

“Both the company and Director have failed to protect their workers and members of the public on a number of occasions and as a result placed them at risk of exposure to asbestos fibres. “Work with the material the company identified should have been subcontracted to a qualified Licensed asbestos removal company. “Around 3000 people a year die from asbestos related disease and it is a well-known risk within the construction industry, there is no excuse for putting people at risk when the hazards can be controlled with careful management during work with asbestos containing materials.”

Phoenix comments:

This is a shocking case whereby a ‘specialist competent’ company employed to remove asbestos safely ignored processes designed to maintain the safety of their employees and other affected by their activities. Winchester Crown Court heard that Sarum Asbestos carried out four asbestos removal jobs between 2012 and 2015, despite not holding a license to do so. The court heard how workers wore no protective clothing when they removed the asbestos, there was no decontamination station on site, and they wore the same clothes when they went home. Workers said that they used hammers to remove ACMs and a ceiling was pulled down using crowbars. The HSE said that the firm again failed to carry out testing after the work was finished to ensure that the asbestos had been completely removed, putting staff and members of the public at risk. Sarum Asbestos was issued with a prohibition notice on 11 May 2015, stopping it from carrying out any more licensable work. Nevertheless, it went on to carry out another job at Corsham police station without obtaining a license. Sarum Asbestos, which has since gone into liquidation.

Asbestos still kills around 3000 workers each year, this is more than the number of people killed on the road. Around 20 tradesmen die each week as a result of past exposure. When materials that contain asbestos are disturbed or damaged, fibres are released into the air. When these fibres are inhaled, they can cause serious diseases. The duty to manage asbestos is contained in regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. It requires the person who has the duty (ie the ‘dutyholder’) to take reasonable steps to find out if there are materials containing asbestos, maintain a record of the location and condition of the asbestos, assess the risk of anyone being exposed to fibres, prepare a plan that sets out in detail how the risks from these materials will be managed and provide information on the location and condition of the materials to anyone who is liable to work on or disturb them.

Further information regarding asbestos is available from the HSE website: http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/