Company and contractor fined after failing to prevent exposure to asbestos
An industrial packaging manufacturer and its Cheshire-based maintenance contractor have been fined after workers disturbed asbestos at the Cheshire factory when dismantling a large industrial oven during demolition works.
Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard that between 1st March 2019 to 31st May 2019, C Facilities Support Limited who trade as ‘CFS’ had been contracted by Greif UK Limited to remove redundant equipment from their premises in Ellesmere Port. During demolition works, asbestos was suspected in the oven gaskets and rope seals which was confirmed by a sample survey. Despite this knowledge by both Greif and CFS, demolition works continued by CFS operatives. Greif UK Limited had instructed a worker to clean the area works without knowledge of the asbestos-containing material or suitable control measures in place. The area was also being used daily by Greif employees, as a thoroughfare to other parts of the factory.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that prior to the demolition work starting, no risk assessment, plan of work, or demolition survey had been carried out on the oven. A full survey was carried out which confirmed asbestos-containing materials to be present within the oven at multiple locations. The materials were found to be in poor condition, having been disturbed and damaged during the dismantling of the oven. Greif UK Limited failed to advise their contractor in advance of the presence of asbestos in the oven and employees were not informed of the potential of exposure. Neither company had a suitable safe system of work in place or provided adequate information, instruction and training to employees.
Greif UK Limited of Merseyside Works, Oil Sites Road, Ellesmere Port pleaded guilty to breaching sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974. The company was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,147.71
C Facilities Support Limited, trading as ‘CFS’ of Military House, Castle Street, Chester pleaded guilty to breaching sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974. The company was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,147.71.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Catherine Lyon said, “The dangers associated with asbestos are well known and advice and guidance is freely available from HSE and other organisations. Those in charge of premises have a duty to inform contractors of the presence of asbestos-containing materials, ensuring that works are carried out safely.
“Those undertaking work which is likely to disturb asbestos, or asbestos-containing materials should ensure that building occupants and operatives are not exposed to asbestos. Those undertaking the work should also provide suitable information, instruction, and training to their employees.
“Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”