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  • Fearghal Harrington

Asbestos removal company fined £15,000


AN asbestos removal company has been fined £15,000 after it failed to meet safe working standards “by a considerable margin".


Imposing fines on Cullen Asbestos Ltd, Judge Patrick Kinney said despite the preparation of an asbestos management plan and method statement, “there was no system of checking that appropriate precautions were being taken".


"An asbestos survey or method statement is of little value if the staff are not properly trained in asbestos awareness and the process and procedures clearly explains to them and then enforced," he said.


"I'm satisfied that the company failed to meet an appropriate standard by a considerable margin."


Following a trial earlier this year, Cullen Asbestos Ltd, from Rock Road in Stoneyford, was convicted of three offences under the health and safety at work legislation including failing to ensure, as far as practicable, the health and safety of employees at work, prevention of exposure to asbestos and preventing the spread of asbestos.


Judge Kinney outlined how the firm was engaged in removing large ceiling tiles from industrial premises on Orby Drive in east Belfast in April 2014. They contained white asbestos but would only release potentially dangerous fibres until the air when disturbed so “logically, the greater the disturbance the greater the risk to health".


Two members of staff on site were “standing on step ladders, using hammers to pull down and break the tiles” with the broken tiles then left “in various locations” in open, untied bags or bags that “were torn with asbestos material clearly visible".


"There was loose material and debris on the floor, on top of the bags and surfaces,” said the judge when they ought to have been put into an “appropriate covered receptacle to prevent the further spread".


He told the court there were other breaches including failures to properly protect or cover exposed surfaces with sheeting, evidence of a lack of staff training and lack of an appropriate skip in which to deposit the asbestos.


Describing the defendant company as a “small undertaking,” judge Kinney said the offences were aggravated because “the breaches went to the top of the structure...there was not prompt acceptance of liability and limited cooperation with the Health and Safety Executive".


Imposing fines amounting to £15,000, the judge said it should “reflect punishment and deterrence and the removal of gain through the commission of an offence - it should not be cheaper to offend than to take appropriate precautions".

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