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News

HSE warns of the dangers of asbestos during building refurbishment work

HSE InfoLine : 27 August, 2004  (Company News)
The warning follows the prosecution of Asahi Glass Fluoropolymers U.K. Limited of Thornton Cleveleys near Blackpool who appeared before Fylde Coast Magistrates' Court in Fleetwood on Tuesday 24 August 2004. The company was fined
The Health and Safety Executive today issued a warning to building and maintenance workers and their employers that they must take proper precautions when working in buildings where asbestos may be present.

The warning follows the prosecution of Asahi Glass Fluoropolymers U.K. Limited of Thornton Cleveleys near Blackpool who appeared before Fylde Coast Magistrates' Court in Fleetwood on Tuesday 24 August 2004. The company was fined 3,000 and ordered to pay full costs of 1,396 following a guilty plea for breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

The HSE investigation followed an incident that occurred during the period 24 - 26 June 2002, when ceiling tiles containing asbestos were removed during refurbishment work contracted out by AGFP at their factory in Lancashire. The court heard that Mr Wesley Senha, employed by a ceiling contractor to carry out the work and Mr Christopher Hughes, employed by a contract cleaner, as well as five other workers were exposed to asbestos during the three day period.

As the work progressed, AGFP managers suspected that the ceiling tiles might contain asbestos but still allowed work to continue in the contaminated area. An asbestos analyst subsequently confirmed the presence of brown and white asbestos in the ceiling tiles. The ceiling contractor did not have an asbestos licence required to remove the tiles and their employees involved in the work were not trained in asbestos work.

HSE Inspector, Peter Gray said: 'This case highlights the need for companies to take a precautionary approach when carrying out maintenance work on materials suspected of containing asbestos. All such work should be carefully planned and risk assessed with prior confirmation of any asbestos content. The work itself should be supervised and executed by competent staff, with contingency measures in place in the event of asbestos being inadvertently encountered. This applies not only to the contractors carrying out the work, but also to the client who has duties to manage the work safely.

'In Britain, around half a million structures built or renovated between 1950 and 1980 still contain asbestos. Asbestos-related diseases are currently responsible for about 3000 deaths a year in Great Britain. Asbestos can become particularly dangerous when disturbed. If maintenance workers are not aware, they may dislodge the deadly fibres and unwittingly put their own health and the health of others at risk.'
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