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Roofer in court after workers potentially exposed to asbestos

Date:
23 June 2015

A roofer has been fined after exposing workers and the home owners to potentially deadly asbestos fibres at a domestic property in Suffolk.

6 August 2014, David Cummings, t/a Cummings Flat Roofing was commissioned to repair and reroof a porch in Martlesham, Suffolk.

During the reroofing work, his employees disturbed asbestos insulation board as they were removing the underside of the porch canopy.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which today (26 May 2015) prosecuted Mr. Cummings at Ipswich Magistrates Court, found that the Mr. Cummings had not arranged for a Refurbishment and Demolition Asbestos Survey for the job to determine if asbestos was present, and if so the type of asbestos present in the porch, despite the homeowner advising Mr. Cummings that he believed his porch contained asbestos.

As a result, Mr. Cummings’ employees were unaware of the presence of asbestos insulation board before starting work and potentially exposed the homeowners, and themselves, to asbestos fibres.

In addition, workers did not remove the asbestos insulation board in an appropriate manner, causing a significant amount of breakage to the board, and heavily contaminated the garden with asbestos fibres. and as the workers did not control access to the area, asbestos fibres were liable to have been carried in the family’s home.

Mr. Cummings, of Kesgrave, Ipswich, was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £1,200 in costs plus a victim surcharge of £120 after pleading guilty to three breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector David King said:

“Exposure to asbestos fibres is a serious and well know health risk, so it is essential that duty-holders take suitable and sufficient measures to prevent the disturbance, spread and exposure to asbestos.

“Guidance on managing the risks of asbestos is widely and freely available. Asbestos has been subject to regulations since 1931, and relevant to the construction industry since 1969.

“Therefore failing to take action to identify asbestos while planning work, to ensure contractor who may disturb asbestos are aware of the location and type of asbestos present and take appropriate measures to protect the health of others is absolutely not excusable.”

Around 4,500 people die every year as a result of breathing in asbestos fibres, making it the biggest single cause of work-related deaths in the UK. Airborne fibres can become lodged in the lungs and digestive tract, and can lead to lung cancer or other diseases, but symptoms may not appear for several decades.

Further information on how to reduce the risk of asbestos can be found on the HSE website at www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/index.htm

Notes to Editors: 

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to prevent 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
  2.  Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 states:
  3. Regulation 5: “An employer must not undertake work in demolition, maintenance or any other work which exposes or is liable to expose employees of that employer to asbestos in respect of any premises unless either—
  4. (a)that employer has carried out a suitable and sufficient assessment as to whether asbestos, what type of asbestos, contained in what material and in what condition is present or is liable to be present in those premises; or
  5. (b)if there is doubt as to whether asbestos is present in those premises, that employer—
  6. (i)assumes that asbestos is present, and that it is not chrysotile alone, and
  7. (ii)observes the applicable provisions of these Regulations.
  8. Regulation 11(1): “Every employer must—
  9. (a)prevent the exposure to asbestos of any employee employed by that employer so far as is reasonably practicable;
  10. (b)where it is not reasonably practicable to prevent such exposure—
  11. (i)take the measures necessary to reduce exposure to asbestos of any such employee to the lowest level reasonably practicable by measures other than the use of respiratory protective equipment, and
  12. (ii)ensure that the number of any such employees exposed to asbestos at any one time is as low as is reasonably practicable.
  13. Regulation 16: “Every employer must prevent or, where this is not reasonably practicable, reduce to the lowest level reasonably practicable the spread of asbestos from any place where work under the employer’s control is carried out.
  14. HSE news releases are available at http://press.hse.gov.uk.

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