A Hartlepool firm, two of its directors and a second company have been fined after its workers were put at risk of exposure to asbestos.
Metal recycling business, Baxketh Ltd, agreed to works which involved the removal of steel from the premises of UK Tankcleaning Services Ltd in New Road, Billingham. A deal was struck which saw Baxketh Ltd take the value of the scrap metal as payment for the work.
The steel work, however, included several pipe systems coated in lagging which contained potentially dangerous asbestos fibres. These were removed by workers without the firm locking any measures in place to prevent the spread of asbestos fibres.
Speaking after the hearing at Teesside Magistrates’ Court, HSE inspector Julian Nettleton said:
“Asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK and there is a lot of industry in the Teesside area that still uses, or occupies premises that have old chemical processing plant dating back to the 60’s.
“Almost all of it was lagged with asbestos in those days.”
The court was told that Health and Safety Executive inspectors visited the site on 22nd February, 2013, following a complaint from a worker at a neighbouring premises. A joint investigation was subsequently carried out by HSE’s Construction Division and Hazardous Installation Division.
Inspectors found Baxketh Ltd directors Michael Almond Senior and Michael Almond Junior at the site with pipe work and damaged insulation strewn across the floor.
A mechanical excavator complete with a grab to shift steel work from the ground to a skip was being operated by Almond Jnr.
The court heard that:
- A Prohibition Notice was served on Baxketh Ltd to cease further work
- An Improvement Notice was served on UK Tankcleaning Services Ltd which required it to conduct an asbestos survey and share the results with those likely to disturb any asbestos
- HSE tests later confirmed that the insulation debris did contain asbestos
HSE inspector, Mr Nettleton said: “This incident occurred because UK Tankcleaning Services Ltd’s asbestos management systems did not include anything relating to informing others of the presence of asbestos on the site.
“Baxketh failed to carry out an asbestos assessment before starting work and did not take any measures to prevent the spread of asbestos fibres.
“This put the directors themselves, their own employees and others working nearby at risk of exposure to asbestos fibres and the court agreed that both companies were equally culpable for the offences.”
Mr Nettleton stressed: “Site operators and contractors working at these sites should always assume that old pipework is lagged with asbestos unless there is reliable evidence that says otherwise.”
Those involved in the construction and refurbishment industry had a “clear duty” to ensure that work is managed so as to prevent the spread of asbestos, he added.
Baxketh Ltd, of Burn Road, Hartlepool, was fined a total of £12,000 and ordered to pay £3,804.20 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulations 5(a) and 16 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.
UK Tankcleaning Services Ltd, of Lodge Lane, Doncaster, was fined £10,000 with £2,243.40 costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 4 of the same legislation.
Michael Joseph Almond Snr, 73, of Westbourne Road, Hartlepool was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £204.80 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 5(a) of the same legislation.
Michael Vincent Almond Jnr, 47, of Plymouth Walk, Hartlepool was fined £650 after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 16 of the same legislation. There was no order for costs against Mr Almond Jnr.
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