Two Stoke-on-Trent brothers with little or no experience of building and construction work have been given prison sentences after they exposed workers to asbestos.
At least seven workers are known to have been exposed to asbestos – one aged just 17 at the time – by Akram Hussain, 52, of City Road, and Inam Hussain, 47, of Boughey Road, during refurbishment work at a former print works on Scotia Road, Burslem, since February 2012.
Stafford Crown Court was told today (20 August) that neither was qualified or experienced in construction, demolition or refurbishment work; nor were they licensed to remove asbestos.
Akram Hussain is a snooker hall manager and Inam Hussain a taxi driver, although they have been carrying out the work on the building for around ten years.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the brothers after an investigation found work was being carried out without the necessary asbestos surveys and without a Construction, Design and Management Co-ordinator (CDM) in place, which is required if work is to take more than 30 days.
Despite repeated visits from HSE inspectors and numerous enforcement notices warning them of their failings, the brothers continued to refurbish the building and disturb asbestos material – putting workers at risk.
A Prohibition Notice was issued on 17 February 2012 stopping all work with, or liable to disturb, asbestos. A ‘Direction to Leave Undisturbed’ was also issued for the building until HSE had provided written confirmation that work could continue.
However, several lorry-loads of waste contaminated with asbestos were removed from the site and taken to an unlicensed waste disposal site in Stoke-on-Trent. Workers were also witnessed exiting the site covered in dust and not wearing the correct protective clothing.
A further Prohibition Notice and an Improvement Notice were served on Akram Hussain on 25 February 2012 when inspectors again found work being carried out without an asbestos survey or a CDM.
A separate Prohibition Notice was also served on Inam Hussain on 18 May 2012 for the non-licensed removal of the asbestos from the building. An Improvement Notice was served at the same time for the ongoing failure to appoint a CDM.
An asbestos survey was later carried out, but work inside the building continued to disturb materials containing asbestos.
The court heard that HSE is aware of at least seven workers being exposed to asbestos in the building. Many more could have been exposed during the course of the refurbishment project.
Akram Hussain and Inam Hussain both pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Akram Hussain was given a custodial sentence of 22 weeks and ordered to pay costs of £43,000. Inam Hussain was given a custodial sentence of 14 weeks.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Lindsay Hope said:
“The Hussains have shown a willful disregard for the health and safety of workers and others. Our investigation uncovered a catalogue of serious errors, safety failings and a disregard of the laws around the safe and correct removal of asbestos.
“This was an appalling case of failing to properly plan, manage and resource this project, which led to workers being exposed to risks to their health from asbestos.
“It is essential at the outset of a building refurbishment to first seek specialist advice regarding the possible presence of asbestos within that building. Only with the full knowledge of what is present, or not, can any asbestos then be dealt with safely.
“Failure to identify and deal with any asbestos can lead to it being damaged and people then breathing in the fibres. The Hussains failed in their duty by choosing to ignore the dangers of this hidden killer.”
Asbestos and its fibres are the greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK. HSE guidance on working with asbestos is available at http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/
Notes to editors
- The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
- Section 3 (2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every self-employed person to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that he and other persons (not being his employees) who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”
- HSE news releases are available at www.hse.gov.uk/press.