Lack of asbestos survey leads to fine for Hartlepool company

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Two companies from north-east England have been fined a total of £22,000 after workers were put at risk of being exposed to asbestos fibres during a project to remove steelwork from a premises in Billingham.

UK Tankcleaning Services Ltd hired Hartlepool-based Baxketh Ltd to remove the pipework, but did not inform the metal recycling business of the presence, location or condition of asbestos at the site.

Baxketh Ltd then exacerbated the situation by failing to carry out the necessary risk assessment to determine whether asbestos was present and what measures would need to be implemented to prevent spread of the fibres across the site and to neighbouring premises.

As a result, a number of pipework systems covered in lagging that contained asbestos were ripped out and left scattered on the ground, before the debris was moved into a skip using a mechanical digger.

A worker at a neighbouring premises reported the matter to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), triggering an investigation by its Construction and Hazardous Installation divisions.

Inspectors immediately identified the problems during a site visit on February 22nd 2013 and proceeded to issue a Prohibition Notice to Baxketh Ltd to halt work on the project, along with an Improvement Notice to UK Tankcleaning Services Ltd ordering it to have an asbestos survey carried out.

At a hearing at Teesside Crown Court on August 5th 2014, Baxketh Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 5(a) and 16 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and was fined £12,000.

UK Tankcleaning Services Ltd admitted breaching Regulation 4 and was fined £10,000. It had earlier had to pay for a full environmental clean of its site.

Baxketh Ltd directors Michael Almond Senior, 73, and Michael Almond Junior, 47, were fined £1,000 and £650 respectively after pleading guilty to one breach of the Regulations each.

HSE Inspector Julian Nettleton said that many industrial premises in Teesside were originally designed for chemical processing in the 1960s and so contain asbestos lagging.

“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,” he said.

“Those involved in the construction and refurbishment industry also have a clear duty to ensure that work is managed so as to prevent the spread of asbestos.”

He added that this incident had been caused by the two companies ignoring that advice and failing to follow standard procedures for asbestos surveys and management.

For more information about asbestos demolition and refurbishment surveys, please contact BLS Asbestos.

Published: 11th August 2014