Firm fined £90,000 for asbestos breaches

A contractor has been fined £90,000 for failing to protect workers and the public from asbestos during a renovation job.

Warrington-based Esskay Construction was last week found guilty in its absence of breaching three regulations under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

The offences, which took place in 2021 during a project to convert a former art shop into housing, forced the temporary closure of a street in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector Will Gretton said: “Asbestos is a class 1 carcinogen which is known to kill around 20 tradesmen each week. Carelessness at this scale, met with a failure to attend court, is unacceptable.

“By failing to take… simple steps, Esskay Construction Ltd put workers and members of the public at risk of being exposed to a substance known to cause fatal illnesses including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.”

He said that the case should serve as a reminder to those engaged in this type of work “that they have responsibilities when it comes to managing the risks associated with asbestos”.

Nathan Cook, prosecuting on behalf of the HSE, told Staffordshire Magistrates’ Court that the watchdog was informed of asbestos disturbance on 31 August 2021.

Council officials attended the site and discovered significant amounts of materials containing asbestos at the front and rear of the building and in the street.

An HSE inspector then served notices prohibiting work at the site and blocking public access to the street. A licensed asbestos removal contractor was then appointed to carry out a clean-up operation.

HSE’s subsequent investigation discovered that Esskay Construction had failed to appoint a competent person to carry out a refurbishment and demolition asbestos survey of the premises prior to carrying out work on site.

The company then allowed refurbishment to start without knowing where the asbestos-containing materials were, resulting in them being disturbed and potentially exposing workers and members of the public to harmful asbestos fibres.

The firm was fined £90,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,000 and a victim surcharge of £190.

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