Lack of asbestos survey leads to £60k fine for fertiliser company

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Failure to carry out an asbestos survey before beginning a refurbishment has resulted in a Wirral-based fertiliser manufacturer being fined £60,000.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted GrowHow UK Ltd after it discovered that up to 50 workers had been exposed to potentially deadly asbestos fibres while working on an industrial furnace at the company’s site at Ince Marshes near Ellesmere Port in January 2011.

Contractors spent two days demolishing brickwork and insulation board, breaking up the rubble, putting it into sacks and then pouring it down a chute to allow the sacks to be reused.

A tradesman raised concerns about the possible presence of asbestos on the site and tests confirmed the fears, meaning the dust created during the demolition work may have contained asbestos fibres.

An investigation conducted by the HSE found that GrowHow had failed to have an appropriate asbestos survey carried out before work on the furnace commenced.

The company pleaded guilty to a single breach of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 and two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and at a hearing at Chester Crown Court on October 4th 2013 was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay £17,094 in costs.

HSE Inspector Daniel Longdon said that in failing to have a survey carried out and hire a licensed asbestos removal contractor, GrowHow had made an error that could have serious consequences for the workers.

"Dozens of workers at GrowHow were exposed to potentially deadly fibres because the company didn't carry out a risk assessment to see if asbestos was present in the industrial furnace,” he said. "They will have to live with the uncertainty for the rest of their lives of not knowing whether they will develop lung cancer or other diseases, such as mesothelioma, as a result.”

Find out more about asbestos surveys from BLS Asbestos and how they can help to keep your workers safe.

Published: 8th October 2013