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Durham glassmaker fined £20k for asbestos safety failings

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A County Durham-based glass manufacturer has been fined £20,000 after failing to have a proper asbestos survey carried out before work was undertaken at its premises.

As a result of the error, almost 200 people were potentially exposed to dangerous asbestos fibres at Romag Ltd in Consett.

Two tradesmen who attended the company’s Princess Building on Leadgate Industrial Estate on July 12th 2011 to fit a new fire alarm system were told the premises were asbestos free.

They unknowingly drilled through an asbestos insulation panel during the installation and then cleaned up the dust with a domestic vacuum cleaner, which was subsequently used in several other locations in the building, spreading asbestos fibres around the site.

Although the problem was discovered the next day, Romag Ltd delayed taking the appropriate action to remedy the situation for nine days, despite its own health and safety advisors telling the company to cordon off the area and arrange for an emergency clean-up and asbestos air test.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the initial failings and the delays in dealing with the problem led to 180 workers and 16 visitors being put at risk of exposure to asbestos fibres, as a substantial amount of contaminated material was collected when the clean-up finally took place.

At a hearing at Consett Magistrates’ Court on October 14th 2013, Romag Ltd pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay more than £12,000 in costs.

HSE Inspector Paul Miller said the situation could easily have been avoided, if the company had followed the correct procedures.

“Any company that intends to do work to the fabric of a property built prior to the year 2000 must ensure that they have taken all reasonable steps to check whether asbestos is present before any work starts,” he said. “That information must be then shared with anyone involved in the proposed work.”

Click here to find out more about asbestos dutyholder requirements and the safe removal of asbestos.

Published: 18th October 2013