Devon gas engineer fined for asbestos disturbance
A gas engineer from Devon has been prosecuted after he removed asbestos insulation board during a boiler replacement, putting himself and others at risk of exposure to asbestos fibres.
Brian Hockin, 58, was removing an old warm air heating system at a residential property in Wrafton when he disturbed a quantity of asbestos.
He continued to remove the material despite concerns raised by the tenants and carried on bagging up the debris from the property and storing it at his yard.
The tenants were so concerned about the lack of safety procedures during his work that they contacted the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which subsequently prosecuted Hockin at Barnstaple Magistrates’ Court.
The Court heard that while he was removing the asbestos, no measures were taken to prevent the spread of fibres and no protective clothing or breathing apparatus was worn.
Hockin of Bickington, near Barnstaple, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and was fined £450 and ordered to pay £921.40 in costs.
HSE Inspector Simon Jones, speaking after the hearing, said: “Brian Hockin’s negligence could result in serious health effects to both him and anyone else who may have come into contact with the asbestos material that he disturbed.
“Given Mr Hockin’s vast experience as a gas engineer he should have realised that there is a very good chance that a 30-year-old gas boiler could be insulated with asbestos insulation board but he made no checks before working around the material.”
Work with asbestos insulation board is strictly regulated and removal should only be undertaken by licensed asbestos contractors, who have fully trained staff and the equipment needed to prevent people being exposed to the fibres that can cause asbestosis and mesothelioma. Hockin, however, did not hire a specialist for the work.
Mr Jones added: “Tradesmen should make enquiries as to the presence of asbestos before starting work and if they suspect that they have come across asbestos during work, they should stop work immediately and confirm what the material is and arrange for it to be dealt with by properly trained asbestos removers in a safe manner.”
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