A contractor has been prosecuted for exposing workers to asbestos in Derby.
Wayne Priestley, 47, of The Beeches, Lincoln Road, Tuxford, Nottinghamshire, had been employed to remove asbestos-containing materials from the former Allens Printers building in Webster Street ahead of its demolition.
Quarnmill Construction Ltd, the principal contractor on the site, provided a survey of the building to Mr Priestley detailing the location of the asbestos. The survey stated that in several places a licensed contractor was required to remove some of the material. Quarnmill Construction has already been prosecuted for their health and safety failings in this case.
Mr Priestley assured Quarnmill the asbestos removal was within his capability, yet he had no licence to carry out this type of work. Interviewed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which investigated his safety failings, Mr Priestley denied seeing that particular instruction within the survey.
HSE found that between 6 and 9 October 2009 Mr Priestley used two of his employees from a local amenity site that he managed, plus two men he had met socially, to carry out the work. He took them to the site on the first day and gave them some basic instructions, but did not remain to supervise the work. Neither did he share the contents of the asbestos survey with them.
He left them with a crowbar, overalls and masks, all of which were inadequate for the task.
The stripped material was first put in a small, open skip, but was then transferred to a sealed skip to be taken away. This meant the workers handled asbestos twice during the removal process.
It also resulted in the driver of the skip removal lorry being exposed to asbestos fibres as the material he collected was not appropriately identified or wrapped.
The HSE investigation also found that no risk assessment was carried out before work started. Mr Priestley only provided one to Quarnmill afterwards.
An HSE scientist revealed the Webster Street site was badly contaminated by asbestos debris, and large fragments of asbestos insulating board remained stuck to walls and ceilings where panels had been broken away during the removal work.
Wayne Priestley pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 for numerous safety failings relating to the exposure. He was ordered to serve 300 hours of community service within a 12 month period and ordered to pay costs of £500.
HSE inspector Carol Southerd said:
“Wayne Priestley has shown a shocking disregard for the well-being of his workforce, and that of a skip removal driver.
“His unsuitability was eventually discovered after a consultant checked the HSE website and reported him, but by this time it was too late. Mr Priestley’s men had been on site for three to four days and the site was thoroughly contaminated with damaged asbestos debris. The workers had been exposed to asbestos throughout this time.
“Asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK. Employers need to protect their workers now to prevent them contracting an asbestos-related disease in the future.
“The health effects to all these men may not be known for decades as the life-threatening conditions that asbestos exposure can lead to can take a long time to develop.”
For further information about the dangers of asbestos, and working safely with asbestos containing materials, visit www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos