Flueclean, a Stockport heating engineering firm, were sentenced after two of its engineers were exposed to asbestos while working at a Manchester school.
Trafford Magistrates’ Court heard Flueclean were contracted to replace boilers in the boiler room of the school. It was during this work that two of Flueclean’s gas engineers were exposed to asbestos as they took the side panels off boilers which had asbestos insulation on the boiler casing.
Flueclean Installations Services Limited Lytham Street Works, Shaw Heath, Stockport, Cheshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 6(1) and 11(1) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and was fined £4,000 for each breach with £3,517 costs.
HSE inspector Kevin Jones said after the hearing:
“Asbestos is the greatest cause of work related deaths in the UK with over 4,000 deaths arising from past exposure. Contractors have a duty to ensure they protect their workers from the risk of exposure to asbestos and must properly plan any work which is likely to disturb it.
In this case, Flueclean Installations Services Limited failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment which if they had would have clearly identified that the work should have been carried out by a licensed asbestos contractor. As a result of this failing, two of their operatives were exposed to asbestos.”
With regard to the prosecution of Flueclean, it can be seen that it is essential that systems are in place to ensure the safety and welfare of employees or contractors when carrying out maintenance or repair on equipment where there is a risk of asbestos being present. The above case shows that prosecutions involve heavy financial penalties when infringements are found to have taken place, but more importantly, the health and welfare of the person working on such equipment is unnecessarily put at risk where no systems are in place.
Where servicing or maintenance of machinery, plant or equipment where asbestos could be present is carried out, a robust and thorough protocol that includes an Asbestos Management Survey and an Asbestos Management Plan should be in place. Following a Management survey, samples will be sent for analysis and a comprehensive report completed which will include an Asbestos Register. Prior to any work being undertaken, the employee or contractor should have sight of this register where exact details of location, type of asbestos and appropriate actions to take will be recorded. An Asbestos Management Plan will detail all actions from discovery of asbestos to either disposal or making safe whichever is most appropriate. Should asbestos be found and left in place after necessary control measures have been put in place, an annual review of ACM’s should be carried out to ensure no further damage or deterioration has occurred whereby new remedial actions may need to be carried out.
The Management Survey and Management Plan will be the documentation that the HSE will require as a priority in the event of a contravention of the Control of Asbestos Regulations (2012). Bear in mind that if a prosecution is bought which involves an employee or contractor being diagnosed with either asbestosis or mesothelioma, severe penalties can and probably will be imposed in addition to the moral guilt of the individual contracting a terminal disease which would have been entirely preventable if the appropriate actions had been taken.
Quantum Compliance has trained consultants who are able to provide a comprehensive service, carrying out Asbestos Management surveys (including refurbishment and demolition surveys) and providing all appropriate documentation required under the Control of Asbestos regulations (2012).