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Specialist asbestos advice ‘essential’ before refurbishment projects

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The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has reiterated the importance of obtaining specialist asbestos advice before refurbishment projects, following a case that resulted in two men from Stoke-on-Trent being jailed after carrying out unlicensed, unsafe asbestos removal work.

Brothers Akram Hussain, 52, of City Road, and Inam Hussain, 47, of Boughey Road, were charged with breaching section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 after at least seven workers were exposed to asbestos during refurbishment work at a former print works in Burslem.

The brothers - a snooker hall manager and a taxi driver - worked on the building for around ten years, despite neither of them having any qualifications to carry out construction, refurbishment or demolition projects.

They failed to have an asbestos survey completed before beginning the refurb and also neglected to appoint the required Construction, Design and Management Co-ordinator.

HSE inspectors visited the site on numerous occasions and also issued multiple enforcement notices, but the Hussain brothers ignored them and continued with the job, disturbing asbestos containing materials in the process.

A prohibition notice was issued in February 2012 ordering all work liable to disturb asbestos to halt, but it was again ignored and inspectors later witnessed contaminated waste being transported to an unlicensed disposal site and workers not wearing protective clothing.

HSE officials decided to prosecute and at a hearing at Stafford Crown Court on August 20th 2014, the brothers pleaded guilty to the breaches.

Akram Hussain was handed a 22-week prison sentence and ordered to pay £43,000 in costs, while Inam Hussain was jailed for 14 weeks.

HSE inspector Lindsay Hope welcomed the sentences for what she described as a “willful disregard” for workers’ safety and a “catalogue of serious errors” in the treatment of asbestos containing materials.

“This was an appalling case of failing to properly plan, manage and resource this project, which led to workers being exposed to risks to their health from asbestos,” she said.

“It is essential at the outset of a building refurbishment to first seek specialist advice regarding the possible presence of asbestos within that building. Only with the full knowledge of what is present, or not, can any asbestos then be dealt with safely.”

For more information about asbestos refurbishment or demolition surveys and the safe removal of asbestos by a licensed contractor, please contact BLS Asbestos.

Published: 22nd August 2014