Ensure Asbestos Management Limited has been fined and two of its employees have been jailed for failing to protect workers from asbestos exposure during a major refurbishment project in Plymouth.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found irregularities in the asbestos surveys and clearance certificates, with some of them found to be fraudulent. The company was also found to have deliberately cut corners in managing the danger of asbestos exposure, putting workers at risk.
Tim Turney, Global Marketing Manager at industrial hygiene and workplace hazard monitoring expert, Casella, comments, “Asbestos-related diseases take the lives of 20 tradespeople every week. Left alone, the material is not harmful, but once disturbed or disintegrating, it can release asbestos fibres that infiltrate and progressively damage the lungs. The damage results in multiple health defects, such as the lung disease mesothelioma — a cancer that can take up to 20 years to develop, proving fatal within five years or less.”
“Discrepancies in sampling and analysis procedures, limitations in personal protective clothing and insufficient cleaning before a clearance pass can hinder accuracy and increase risks. Whenever asbestos is removed, it is a legal requirement to use licenced contractors and to ensure that strict regulations and guidance are followed to limit the potential release of dangerous, airborne fibres. The guidance typically includes personal air sampling and/or static air sampling, to ensure that there is no exposure during remediation work or during the cleaning and clearance processes at a removal site.”
“In the UK, a four-stage clearance process is used, involving a preliminary check of the site condition and job completeness, a thorough visual inspection inside the enclosure or work area, air monitoring and a final assessment of the post-enclosure or work area following dismantling. Licenced contractors may also take air samples before work is undertaken to establish a background level measurement. Conducting a test before disturbing any materials could save thousands of pounds on decontamination and environmental cleaning fees and help to avoid exposure. Additionally, trained professionals may take air samples during work on or near asbestos to confirm that there is no leakage from the enclosure.”
“Asbestos does not only pose a threat to trade workers, but those they encounter, should invisible yet lethal asbestos particles stick to their personal protective equipment and tools. Following stringent cleaning regimes can protect workers and their colleagues, family, and friends. All equipment must be thoroughly decontaminated to ensure there is no subsequent exposure or spread of asbestos.”