Failure to identify asbestos risk costs proves costly for SSE Hornsea

SSE Hornsea were sentenced last week following the exposure of 13 employees and contractors to dangerous asbestos fibres at a natural gas storage facility near Atwick, East Yorkshire.

Beverley Magistrates’ Court heard that three mechanical maintenance workers were tasked with removing a non-return valve from a compressed air distribution system.

However, when some of the sealing gasket material was difficult to remove, they used a wire brush on an electrical drill to remove it - spreading the fibres from the gasket around the workshop, onto the floor, workbenches and the maintenance workers’ clothing.

Two days later, another SSE employee became suspicious of the dust. After reporting their concerns, a sample was taken and test results showed that the material from the gasket contained chrysotile (white) asbestos fibres.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) told the court that the organisation had failed to identify the presence of asbestos gaskets in the risk assessment.

The HSE also stated that records held by the company that could have assisted in identifying the asbestos gaskets were inadequate, and the leader of the maintenance team that carried out the task had not undertaken the asbestos awareness training which, again, could have helped them identify the presence of chrysotile.

SSE Hornsea pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2 (1) and 3(1) of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and were fined £300,000 and ordered to pay costs of £12,670.72.

HSE Inspector Paul Miller said: “In this case SSE Hornsea Ltd substantially failed to manage the risks associated with asbestos found within their process plant and have needlessly risked the future health of 13 people. Employers should ensure that they have in place adequate arrangements for both the identification and management of asbestos which may be found in buildings or process plant.

“Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fibre which was widely used in both building and engineering materials for its strength, heat and chemical resistance. This can cause serious diseases including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis which are often fatal. These diseases do not have an immediate effect, they often take a long time to develop, but once diagnosed, it is often too late to do anything.”

BLS Asbestos are a specialist licensed contractor with over 20 years’ experience in the survey and safe removal of asbestos from residential, commercial and industrial properties.

To arrange a free, no-obligation site visit, or for more information about our asbestos services, call BLS Asbestos on 01484 400558 or contact us via the website.

Published: 25th January 2018

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