Workers offered baby wipes as protection from asbestos

asbestosA Suffolk building company has been fined after removing asbestos insulation board without a licence, and failing to protect its workers from both asbestos exposition and falls of up to four metres.

Workers at a farm building in Waltham, Essex were only provided with baby wipes and access to a hose for decontamination to protect themselves from asbestos fibres.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was alerted by a member of the public concerned that unsafe work was being undertaken. Following an investigation, LJW Cladding wAS found to not have a licence permitting it to remove asbestos, despite telling the farm owner it held the necessary approvals, and none of the workers were trained to work with licensed asbestos. They were also placed in danger of falling from height while removing the fragile asbestos boards owing to absent or inadequately installed safety netting, and a harness and inertia reel being used inappropriately.

HSE says the work, carried out between February 26-28 2014, was woefully lacking in safety measures. Asbestos insulating boards were broken from their fixings with poor attempts to prevent the uncontrolled release of fibres. There was no use of an enclosure and the respiratory protective equipment provided to workers offered insufficient protection. Instead, in addition to the poor levels of protection offered on site, contaminated overalls over normal clothing continued to be worn while the workers took their lunch break on site, meaning contaminated clothing could have been taken home with them each night.

LJW Cladding of Evesham Close, Ipswich, Suffolk, was fined a total of œ10,000 and ordered to pay costs of œ3,365.50, plus a œ120 victim surcharge after pleading guilty to separate breaches of the Work at Height Regulations and the Control of Asbestos Regulations.

After the hearing, Dominic Elliss, principal inspector for the HSE, said:

“LJW Cladding’s incompetent actions led to its employees being potentially exposed to asbestos fibres at a much higher level than would have been possible had a competent licensed contractor been used.

“In addition there was a serious risk one of them could fall from or through the fragile roof because of the firm failed to provide effective safeguards. Too many workers continue to be seriously injured from falls in exactly this type of refurbishment project.”

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