Northamptonshire firms fined for leaving employees at risk of asbestos exposure

Lifting Systems, based at Main Road Far Cotton, has been fined for breaching asbestos regulations for works carried out at its Crown Works site.
Lifting Systems, based at Main Road Far Cotton, has been fined for breaching asbestos regulations for works carried out at its Crown Works site.

More than £25,000 of fines has been handed to two Northampton firms after ‘serious asbestos related failings’ were discovered during a renovation project in Far Cotton.

Northampton Magistrates’ Court heard today (December 22) how Lifting Systems Ltd, had contracted Durasteel Services Ltd to refurbish an asbestos cement roof at its Crown Works at Main Road in Far Cotton.

When inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) visited the site on October 22, 2013, to check the work they found asbestos insulation board had been removed and stored on the premises, and that debris had been placed in waste skips around the site.

A ‘Prohibition Notice’ was served to immediately stop any further work and a subsequent investigation found that although Lifting Systems Ltd was the client, the company had undertaken a lot of the refurbishment work itself, including the removal of the majority of old asbestos cement roofing panels.

It did not have an up-to-date asbestos register and did not carry out a demolition and refurbishment survey, magistrates heard, which would have highlighted areas of asbestos to be considered during the refurbishment.

Durasteel Services Ltd, of Kingsheath Industrial Estate, failed to carry out an assessment to identify the potential for asbestos to be disturbed and put effective control measures in place.

The court was also told that neither company had a licence to remove the potentially lethal material, linked to delayed lung conditions such as mesothelioma.

Lifting Systems Ltd, was fined £14,000 and ordered to pay £523 in costs after pleading guilty to three breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

Durasteel Services Ltd, of Kingsfield Way, Kingsfield Heath Industrial Estate, Northampton, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £523 after admitting one breach of the same regulations.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Sam Russell said: “This case highlights the importance of businesses having strong policies to enable identification of asbestos as part of their normal working practices.

“The refurbishment work started three months before HSE visited the site, so the risks from asbestos had not been controlled for some time.

“Lifting Systems Ltd made little effort to survey or identify asbestos in the premises before starting work, so failed to identify the presence of asbestos insulation board lining panels underneath the asbestos roofing sheets.

“The panels were broken up and placed in skips, putting construction workers and other employees at risk of exposure to carcinogenic asbestos fibres.

“An asbestos survey had been carried out by the previous owners of the premises and highlighted the asbestos which was removed.

“However, the premises had been derelict for a period of time and the infrastructure had been damaged and vandalised meaning the old survey was not current and fit for purpose and a new one was required.

“Durasteel Services Ltd was complicit in the removal of asbestos insulation board during the refurbishment. The company should have conducted an assessment to see if any work it undertook would have the potential to disturb asbestos materials and taken appropriate action to introduce control measures.”

On average, 20 tradespeople die each week from asbestos-related diseases.