Cardiff Domestic Letting Agent Sentenced after Handy Man Exposed to Asbestos

A Cardiff letting agent has been sentenced after a handyman was exposed to asbestos-containing material while carrying out work on a client’s property.

A self-employed handyman from Cardiff, who does not wish to be named, regularly carried out work on properties managed by Rochefort Shugar Ltd and on 15 October 2010 was sent to a domestic property in Sully to fix a leaking porch roof.

As he was removing a sheet of material from the underside panel of the damaged roof, he realised it was asbestos-containing insulation board. The sheet was broken during removal and the surrounding area was contaminated with asbestos debris.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuting, told Barry Magistrates’ Court the removal of the panel and the sweeping up and bagging of the debris would have resulted in the significant release of asbestos fibres into the air.

The handyman wore two dust masks while removing the board on 15 October 2010, but did not undergo any decontamination procedures and was not wearing a protective, disposable suit. The court heard the fibres could have contaminated his hair, skin and clothing and may also have been inhaled.

When asbestos fibres are inhaled they can cause serious diseases which are responsible for around 4,000 deaths a year. There are four main diseases caused by asbestos, all of which can develop much later after exposure – they are mesothelioma (which is always fatal); lung cancer (almost always fatal); asbestosis (not always fatal, but it can be very debilitating) and diffuse pleural thickening.

The HSE investigation found the handyman had not been given any indication asbestos was present in the property, No risk assessment was carried out or method statement compiled, and Rochefort Shugar made no attempt to ensure he was competent to identify or work with asbestos.

A licensed asbestos contractor was later called in to decontaminate the area, to ensure no further people were put at risk of exposure to the substance.

Rochefort Shugar Ltd. of Tudor House, 16 Cathedral Road, Cardiff were found guilty of breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £1,500 and with £2,500 costs.

HSE Inspector, Steve Richardson said:

“There are specific rules and laws regarding hazardous substances like asbestos. If we do not enforce these laws, people’s health can be put at serious risk. Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and should be treated with extreme caution.

“Those in charge of maintenance and repair of buildings must ensure work is carried out by competent tradesmen, and that consideration is given to the presence of hazards such as asbestos. More information on risk assessment can be found on the HSE website and the Hidden Killer website.”

Notes to editors

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.
Section 3(1) of Health and Safety at Work etc. Act states ‘Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work; and the risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking.

Source HSE