An astonishing news report this week tells the story of the CEO of a furniture company who exposed his Rochdale factory employees to potentially lethal asbestos for more than five years. It appears that this irresponsible business owner neglected to carry out asbestos checks at the factory, despite Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 that requires him to carry out these checks as the duty holder. More than a dozen employees were exposed to the potentially deadly asbestos, many of whom were members of his own family and extended family! All of these were exposed to asbestos which had been disturbed over a five year period and the company owner has now been ordered to pay more than £60,000 after being found guilty of health and safety breaches at Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester.
The judge who heard this sorry case called the factory owner “reckless in the extreme” and went on to say that the company should have carried out an asbestos survey at a much earlier stage. The factory was bought by this man in 2007 and, although a building survey was carried out at that time, no asbestos inspection was undertaken. This is despite the fact that the use of asbestos was totally banned in the UK in 1999 and a dedicated campaign was launched in order to educate and inform both business and home owners on the dangers of asbestos and how to avoid risks. Further investigation revealed that when asbestos had been detected at the premises, the business owner ignored the order banning anybody from entering the building and went in there with a nephew in order to pick up some furniture!
At the court hearing, the CEO of the company admitted all of the offences with which he was charged and a spokesman for his company reveals that it has “learned lessons from this regrettable position and is now in a better position to protect its employees in the future”. This sorry tale just goes to demonstrate that asbestos is still very much a danger in the UK and that there remain a few unscrupulous business owners who are hell bent on cutting costs by avoiding the appropriate health and safety checks necessary (and any expensive remodelling or refurbishment work on premises that may be required).
If you’re a business owner that has just taken over new premises, it’s vital to ensure that an asbestos survey has been carried out. As the duty holder, it is your responsibility to make sure that the building does not contain any asbestos or ACMs that may present a danger to your workforce. Whether you employ several people or a core staff of a few workers, their health and safety at work is your responsibility. If asbestos is identified on the premises, then it’s important that its condition is checked to ensure that it’s stable and that it’s not breaking down or deteriorating in any way so releasing fibres into the atmosphere. If you’re unsure about how to carry out the check or if you find asbestos and don’t know what to do next, then call in a professional contractor who is fully trained and qualified to do the job for you. Yes, it will cost you, but it could save you a lot of money in fines in the long run.