Workers were potentially exposed to dangerous asbestos fibres and given only baby wipes and a cold water hose for decontamination.
LJW Cladding Ltd was working at a farm building in Waltham, Essex last year, where it removed asbestos insulation board without a licence. It also failed to protect its workers falling from heights of up to four metres.
Chelmsford magistrates heard the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) was alerted by a member of the public concerned that unsafe work was being undertaken at the farm building (pictured below).
HSE’s investigation found that LJW Cladding Ltd had no licence to remove asbestos, despite telling the farm owner it did. None of the workers were trained to work with licensed asbestos and were also placed in danger of falling from height while removing the fragile asbestos boards.
HSE found that the work, carried out between 26th and 28th February 2014, was totally lacking in safety measures. Asbestos insulating boards were broken from their fixings with inadequate 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 of a full three-stage decontamination unit required for such work, all the workers had were baby wipes and the farm’s cold water hose. Contaminated overalls over normal clothing continued to be worn while the workers ate their lunch on site.
The investigation also identified a lack of fall prevention or protection measures.
The British Lung Foundation (BLF) is this week launching a campaign to promote awareness about the dangers of asbestos amongst tradespeople.
According to official statistics, every week on average six electricians, four plumbers and eight joiners die in the UK from exposure to asbestos, making it the single greatest cause of work-related deaths.
The ban on the use of asbestos was only imposed in 2000, so any building built or renovated before then might contain asbestos.
The BLF’s Take 5 and Stay Alive campaign aims to ensure tradespeople have the knowledge to act safely and responsibly, ensuring they can identify asbestos and determine what type it is, and assess whether they have the training and equipment to deal with it safely.
British Lung Foundation chief executive Dr Penny Woods said: “Twice as many people die from asbestos-related illnesses than on the roads each year in Britain. It’s the biggest work-related killer, and the numbers of deaths associated with it are rising each year. Sole traders and people working for small companies are often under particular pressure to take jobs and deliver quickly, and this can sometimes put them at particular risk of asbestos exposure.
“But it’s not just tradespeople putting their own lives at risk. If asbestos is disturbed the particles can affect others too, and we know several women who have died after years of washing their husbands’ contaminated overalls.