Shengxuan Company Limited, a refurbishment firm based in Wolverhampton, has been fined £4,000 by injury lawyers and was ordered to pay costs of £2,100 at Loughborough Magistrates’ Court, after pleading guilty to breaching Regulations 11(1)(a) and 16 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.
Regulation 11(1)(a) requires all employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that workers are not exposed to asbestos. Regulation 16 states: “Every employer shall prevent or, where this is not reasonably practicable, reduce to the lowest level reasonably practicable, the spread of asbestos from any place where work under his control is carried out.” The company was fined after workers and members of the public were found to have been exposed to asbestos, as work was being carried out on a building in Leicestershire.
On the 16th June 2010, workers for Shengxuan Company Limited were tasked with converting a shop into a restaurant on a village street in Castle Donington. The project involved turning a garage into a storeroom. However, in converting the garage, workers unknowingly disturbed materials containing asbestos. The asbestos materials were then dumped in a nearby skip.
The unsafe practice was exposed when a member of the public who worked in the asbestos industry walked past the building and noticed that asbestos was being dumped in the skip. Reporting the incident to the Health and Safety Executive, the person also saw what appeared to be asbestos material lying on the floor of the garage.
A Health and Safety Executive investigation revealed the presence of asbestos and found that workers were not sufficiently aware of the material’s risk to human health. Work was halted on the site until the asbestos was properly removed in accordance with the law. Medical negligence claims involving asbestos exposure are common in the UK, with asbestos and mesothelioma claiming numerous lives each year.
Speaking after the court hearing, Health and Safety Executive inspector, Sam Russell, said: “The company had a duty to protect its employees and the public from exposure to asbestos, yet failed in that duty. Before starting work the company should have carried out a survey to ascertain if asbestos was present and then arranged for it to be removed safely by a licensed company. By failing to do that, they put people’s health at risk by contaminating a public area with asbestos.
“The latest health and safety statistics show that more people are dying as a result of asbestos related diseases, than are killed in accidents at work. This situation will not change unless organisations take their duty to manage asbestos seriously.”
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CFM comments: It is important when having work done and hiring a contractor that you do your homework. Do not hire uninsured and unlicensed contractors to do any serious construction or remodeling work lest you or your company be held liable.