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Dairy hit with fine for breaching asbestos removal regulations

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A major dairy company has been fined after a welding contractor’s workers were exposed to asbestos containing materials while removing industrial boilers at a disused site.

Dairy Crest Limited pleaded guilty to a single breach of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 in relation to the incident at the premises in Totnes, Devon in May 2010.

Plymouth Crown Court heard that although Dairy Crest had organised a suitable asbestos survey some years previously, it had failed to supply the report to the contractor - a breach of its responsibilities as main duty holder for the site

As a result, the company was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay a further £22,214 in costs.

The contractor, Rochdale Electric Welding Company Limited (REWCO), was also prosecuted under the same legislation and was fined £8,000, with £13,786 in costs, after pleading guilty to two breaches.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors discovered that the work to remove the boilers and associated pipework was undertaken without sufficient enquiries to discover whether asbestos was present on the site and that REWCO’s employees had not been properly trained to deal with the risks.

As a result, three of REWCO’s workers carried out the job while wearing normal clothes, which became contaminated with asbestos dust and fibres. Parts of the site were also contaminated and the material remained exposed for two days, before a clean-up operation took place following a visit by HSE officials.

Martin Lee, an inspector for HSE, described the incident as “totally needless” and blamed both Dairy Crest and REWCO for the safety failings.

“This was a very serious incident that could severely impact on the future health of the employees who worked with and near the asbestos,” he said. "There were clear failings by both companies to identify and properly manage and control the asbestos containing material before work started, and to provide appropriate protection for workers when it did.”

He added that the regulations governing working with asbestos had been in place for many years and that there was no excuse for not complying with them.

To learn more about carrying out asbestos surveys and removal in line with the regulations, contact BLS Asbestos for some advice.

Published: 17th September 2013