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Construction company fined three quarters of a million pounds after asbestos failings

The HSE have reported on a recent investigation they have

Barroerock Construction Limited has been fined after repeated asbestos failings.

Canterbury Crown Court heard yesterday how the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out two investigations of working practices of the site in 2013 and 2014 while Barroerock were converting into flats a former nine storey office building in Ashford, Kent, which was known to contain asbestos.

The first investigation arose from a routine inspection during one of HSE’s refurbishment campaigns. The Court was told that while a refurbishment and demolition (R&D) survey had been carried out the company had failed to act upon it. This resulted in up to 40 workers being exposed to asbestos during the early demolition phase of the project.

The second investigation culminated in a visit to the site in June 2014 following complaints being made about the health and safety practices at the site. It was found that despite engaging a licensed asbestos contractor to remove the remaining asbestos materials, dangerous practices were continuing. In addition the company was unable to provide documentation to show that asbestos materials identified in the survey had been correctly removed. When the work on site was halted for the second time about 160 people were working inside the building.

It was found in both HSE investigations that these incidents could have been prevented if Barroerock ensured they had effective management controls in place to avoid the risk of exposure to asbestos.

Barroerock Construction Limited of Langley House Park Road, East Finchley, London, who had pleaded guilty to two offences of breaching Regulation 22 (1) (a) of the Construction Design and Management Regulations 2007 at an earlier hearing, has been fined £750,000 and ordered to pay costs of £14,874.68.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Melvyn Stancliffe said: “The company’s failings in this case has put many workers at risk to the exposure of asbestos.

“It was clear there was an endemic failure to effectively manage the construction work on the site in a way which ensured that asbestos materials were not disturbed until removed under appropriate conditions. Failing to prevent the breathing in of asbestos fibres on the site is reckless.”

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Asbestos in Scotland remains a ‘health time bomb’

BBC News have reported on the use of asbestos in Scottish schools,

The use of asbestos in Scottish schools has created a health “time bomb”, medical and legal experts have claimed.

An increasing number of people are coming forward with asbestos-related conditions they claim are associated with working in affected buildings.

Exposure to asbestos dust can cause a deadly cancer called mesothelioma.

Scotland currently has the highest global incidence of the condition, with 175 cases diagnosed in 2014, according to the University of Glasgow.

Laura Blane, a partner with Thompsons Solicitors, said the firm was dealing with about 200 cases of people who have been exposed in hospitals, schools, leisure centres, council headquarters and other public buildings.

She said: “It is no exaggeration to say that this is an enormous ticking time bomb and I am seeing increasing numbers of cases.

“We all know that our local councillors have busy in-trays but I would say to them that this is now something that touches every community in the country. It’s a problem that must be tackled with the upmost urgency.”

Victims of asbestos and their families have called on all parties in the upcoming council elections to acknowledge what they say is “one of the biggest health scandals facing Scotland”.

Iain Naylor’s wife, Sandra, developed mesothelioma which she believed was due to exposure to asbestos dust when she was a pupil at Caldervale High School in Airdrie in the 1970s.

She died in 2014 at the age of 52.

Mr Naylor is now leading calls for all prospective councillors to make the issue a priority.

He said: “We were so upset at the diagnosis because we couldn’t understand how she was exposed. Sandra didn’t work in heavy industries or anything like that.

“I lost my wife because she was a pupil in a school full of asbestos. How could that happen? How many others have been affected?”

Robin Howie, a consultant on asbestos, said hundreds of public buildings could have “significant asbestos content”.

“Routine maintenance and general dilapidation of those buildings causes a release of asbestos fibres into the air,” he said.

“Unless stringent asbestos fibre limits of less than 100 fibres per cubic meter are introduced and enforced in our schools and public buildings then our children will continue to be exposed to an unacceptable level of risk. The threat cannot be overstated.”

The current HSE approved level of asbestos fibre is 10,000 fibres per cubic metre.

Annette Smith, of Scotland’s biggest asbestos charity Clydeside Action on Asbestos, backed Mr Naylor’s initiative.

She added: “It’s very brave of Iain to come out and comment on this. This not a party political issue but it is an issue where we really need the help of our local politicians.

“The is one of the biggest health challenges facing our country in the coming years and we can’t win this fight without the backing of our councillors.

“I would say to all political parties please look at this issue as a matter of priority, meet with us and the families and let’s make sure that all public buildings whether its schools, hospitals or local authority buildings are safe for everyone.”

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National Submarine Day – The Dangers of Asbestos in Submarines

The Mesothelioma Veterans Center have discussed the dangers of asbestos in submarines

At one time, it was mandated that asbestos be used to insulate all ships and submarines made by the U.S. Navy. These products quickly degraded or became worn out, causing asbestos fibers to  became airborne where they could then become ingested or inhaled by the sailors working on the submarines.

When submarines were being built, particularly between 1920 and 1970, the United States Military used a large amount of asbestos-containing products in the construction of many Naval vessels, including submarines. Asbestos was not found to be toxic until the middle part of the 1970s and it had desirable properties for use on submarines. It insulated the submarines against the cold of the ocean, was cheap to manufacture, heat resistant, and an extremely versatile product to be used on all sorts of Naval vessels.

The dangers of fire were great on submarines — far greater than the danger on surface vessels. The U.S. Navy used asbestos on as many materials and products as possible because it was heat resistant and cut down the risk of a fatal fire on board a submarine under water.

The Navy made use of chrysotile asbestos for much of its insulation in the submarine and in products such as tape, packing materials and gaskets. Amosite asbestos was also used for insulating the submarines’ flanges, valves and water pipes.

To read more about asbestos in submarines please click here

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Global Asbestos Awareness Week – Contractor fined for poor asbestos assessment

The HSE has reported on a recent investigation it has undertaken,

A Bedfordshire based contractor has been fined after failing to carry out suitable assessment of asbestos removal work.

Luton Magistrates Court heard how Anthony West was contracted to complete demolition work at a building in Biggleswade. West then had a pre-demolition asbestos survey carried out for the building.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had the demolition work reported to 16 April 2015by a member of the public which prompted an investigation into the work.

The investigation found that West did not adequately check the pre-demolition asbestos survey before carrying out the work, and did not follow advice to use a licensed asbestos removal contractor.

West, of Earwig Farm House, Pavenham, Bedford has pleaded guilty to breaching sections 5,7,8 and 16 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012  and has been fined £2970 and ordered to pay costs of £5419.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Alison Outhwaite said: “The safety failings in this case could have led to severe illness in later years. West not only put himself at risk to exposure but potentially to fellow workers and members of the public walking past. Duty holders have the responsibility to ensure that adequate assessments take place to avoid the risk of asbestos exposure. This includes checking the accuracy and clarity of any information provided by others.”

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Global Asbestos Awareness Week – Fine for two companies following asbestos investigation in Surrey

The HSE has reported on recent case,

Two companies have been fined after unsafe asbestos work was carried out on a property in Leatherhead, Surrey.

Staines Magistrates’ Court heard how Kingsley Asbestos Services Limited (KAS), although a licensed asbestos removal contractor, was sub contracted by Bourne Valley Construction Services Limited (BVCS) to carry out the work.

KAS removed some asbestos containing materials and agreed to carry out repair works on other water damaged materials within the properties. During works to cut away damaged wall coverings in the kitchen, one of the workers cut into a pale coloured board which after subsequent testing proved it to be Asbestos Insulation Board.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found BVCS failed to plan the work and pass on information to KAS. It was the responsibility of both BVCS and KAS to arrange for a refurbishment and demolition survey. As a consequence work was carried out without establishing the location, presence and extent of asbestos containing materials on site.

HSE Inspector Rebekah Dunn said:  “Asbestos still kills around 5000 workers each year and around 20 tradesmen die each week as a result of past exposure.

“BVCS were in control of the works and should have provided information identified in such a survey or assessment regarding the presence of asbestos to KAS as their sub-contractor.”

Bourne Valley Construction Services Ltd of Salisbury, Wiltshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 13 (2) of the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2007, was fined £8000 and ordered to pay full costs.

Kingsley Asbestos Services Ltd of Ferring in Worthing pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 5 (1) (a) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, was fined £6000 and ordered to pay full costs.

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Global Asbestos Awareness Week – Swansea Council still hoping for money back from surveyors after £4m bill

Wales Online have reported,

Council chiefs in Swansea have said they are still in discussions with the company which surveyed the Oceana building before large amounts of asbestos were found, sending costs spiralling upwards.

The Post understands this could potentially lead to the authority receiving some money from Santia, which spent six weeks surveying The Kingsway site prior to submitting a report.

“This is a complex case, so we’re still considering our options,” said a council spokesman.

At a meeting last November, the council’s property development manager Huw Mowbray said the survey had only identified 10 per cent of the asbestos that was subsequently discovered in the council-owned building, adding that the survey did not contain caveats to suggest more asbestos might be present.

Demolition costs subsequently soared from £1.18 million to £4.1 million, including fees.

These costs had been leaked to the press the previous month, causing a headache for the administration, which was concerned that the airing of the confidential report could restrict the council’s contractor options.

Council leader Rob Stewart told a cabinet meeting that an investigation would take place to try to identify who leaked the report as it was, he said, a breach of the council’s code of conduct.

The Post asked what the upshot was of this investigation. A council spokesman said: “We are not aware how this confidential report got into the public domain.”

The Oceana matter has been looked at by the council’s scrutiny programme committee in the past few weeks, but time is limited before May’s local Government elections.

Committee chairwoman Mary Jones, who had been very keen for the committee to look into the case, told the Post that a working group would normally be set up. But she said in this instance a meeting was held behind closed doors, due to the commercially-sensitive nature of the discussions.

“It was a very good meeting,” she said. “We are a cross-party committee, and asked some very searching questions.”

Mrs Jones said a letter outlining the committee’s views would be sent to Mr Stewart. “We will expect a response,” she said.

The Welsh Government is funding the original demolition cost, but the £2.9 million shortfall is due to be funded by council borrowing.

The administration had planned to move its Civic Centre staff to new offices at the Oceana site, but it now wants to create a “digital district” there for high-tech companies. This should lever in funding from the £1.3 billion City Deal signed off by Theresa May last week.

Civic Centre staff , meanwhile, are set to move to a new base opposite the Grand Theatre.

Speaking at the cabinet meeting when Mr Stewart ordered the leak investigation, Councillor Jennifer Raynor said the administration had “very strong legal and moral duty” to deal responsibly with the asbestos situation.

“It would be entirely incorrect to walk away from this building, putting people at further risk,” she said.

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Pupils had to be ‘hosed down’ over asbestos risk as school building crumbled

The Sunderland Echo has reported,

Students had to be sent to an emergency van to be cleaned when suspected asbestos dust fell on them from their school building. The extent of the problems at Hetton School’s old site was laid bare before the House of Commons as its acting headteacher and its former headteacher told its Public Accounts Committee about the problems they faced while waiting for it to be rebuilt.

The plans to rebuild the school – one of several which were proposed across Wearside and East Durham because they were in such a bad state of repair – was hit by a delay following the collapse of the deal that was meant to financially back the project.

The project was finally complete in September.

Acting headteacher Craig Knowles and former headteacher Phil Keay presented evidence to MPs as the meeting looked at capital spending for schools and scrutinised the Department for Education and Education Funding Agency on whether they delivered effectively on buildings.

The appearance by the school’s leaders was organised by Houghton and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson, who sits on the committee.

The session heard how the old school’s state led it to being shut on several occasions and a series of safety measures being drafted in to keep children safe while waiting for the project to begin.

The committee was told that while asbestos was largely concealed within the building, windy weather would cause tiles to move and dust to fall.

The school representatives said this meant time was lost in the classroom for children when it had to be closed because of structural problems, as well as times when its heating system was not working.

Mr Keay said: “Some ceiling tiles were taped together so therefore should have been secure, but on windy days wind would get through the building and through open doors and the ceilings would lift.

“We had two or three cases we had to close off the school and students had to in fact had to go into the de-fumigation van, an emergency van, to make sure they were de-dusted and hosed down and cleaned, and it really was that serious.

“Obviously parents were informed, the emergency services and so on, but it was not a building that was fit to have children in it for several years really, prior to its closure and us moving to the new building.”

Mr Knowles spoke of how in September, the school moved into its new building.

He said: “The impact on the students is that they can now actually go about their learning with a mental readiness that previously wasn’t the case.

“Perhaps before, when they would have had to come in from the rain and keep their coats on because of the lack of heating, and have those kind of issues, where they were just trying to go about their work to learn, they’re not there any more.

“We do have a good new building, it’s not without its continuing issues, but all those issues that I’ve mentioned they’re not there any more.

“It’s a fantastic environment for young people to go about their work, to progress, to achieve and it’s great for the staff was well, because they can have confidence in their preparation and what they are trying to achieve.”

After the meeting, and via the school’s website, Mr Knowles said it had been a “great opportunity” to speak to MPs and members of the department and the agency. He added: “As a school we have a fantastic building that , although not without its faults, is a great environment for students and staff to develop in.”

“However, we have had unforeseen costs this year that we believe should have formed part of contingency within the EFA budget and have now fallen on the school. “These costs have to be found from our depleted revenue budget and therefore means we have less to spend on our real priorities of high quality teachers in every classroom, supported by high quality non-teaching staff. “Despite these difficulties we have a clear plan for the school’s future that will allow us to continue to prosper as a good school.”

Mr Knowles added: “One thing for sure, the future is bright at Hetton School, because we prioritise the most important thing – putting our students first” The committee also heard £7billion is needed to bring the country’s school sites up to a decent standard and that amount again to make them a “good standard.”

There is also an issue over the demand for school places, with 420,000 more places needed by 2021, with the Government’s push on free schools to be factored in schools’ estates.

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Asbestos removal firm fined after poor safety practices

The HSE has reported on a recent case of health and safety failings,

Midlands based firm Enviro-Safe Limited have been fined for failing to meet the standards required when removing asbestos.

Birmingham Magistrates Court heard how the company failed to protect their employees from the spread of asbestos fibres during the removal work at separate projects. The company had failed to protect their workers and exposed them to the risk of developing a form of cancer related to asbestos (Carcinogen).

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Enviro-Safe Limited failed to adequately assess the risk involved with the removal of asbestos material and as a result exposed its employees and others to asbestos. This risk would have been prevented by the use of enclosures which would have protected the workers from risk of asbestos fibres

Speaking after the case HSE inspector Amy Kalay said “Exposure to asbestos fibres is extremely dangerous to people’s health and the company failed to adopt the safety measures that are required to prevent the risk to their employees and others.”

Envrio-Safe Limited of Stratford Street North, Birmingham pleaded guilty to a breach of Regulation 16 Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and have been fined £16,000 and ordered to pay costs of £7731.13

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National Toast Day

On National Toast Day what could be more inviting than a gold crunchy slice of toast made in an Toaster containing Asbestos.  Did you know that toasters manufactured in the 1950s, 60s and 70s contained asbestos which was used to provide heat insulation as well as providing electrical insulation around the cord of the toaster.

So before you admire the trendy looking retro style toaster at your local antique shop or fair remember it could contain asbestos.

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Vivienne believes washing her husband’s asbestos-ridden clothes gave her cancer.

ITV News have interviewed Vivienne Swain who washed her husbands asbestos-ridden clothes during his career as a joiner,

A woman believes her fatal lung cancer was caused by washing her late husband’s asbestos-ridden clothes.

Vivienne Swain’s spouse Michael Power worked as a joiner for Manchester council from 1969 to 1977.

The council will only compensate Vivienne if she finds witnesses to support her claims that Michael, known as Mick, worked with asbestos, her solicitors said. Mick died from brain disease in his early forties.

“It seems cruel”, mum-of-three Vivienne said.

“This is going back 40 years, and now the onus is on me to prove that he worked with asbestos. I would shake the overalls before washing them and they would be heavy with dust – so much so that it would cover the kitchen floor. “I’d have to sweep it up. I believe these were asbestos fibres.”

– VIVIENNE SWAIN

Vivienne, 60, from Rochdale, can’t get government compensation for asbestos victims because she did not work directly with the killer material.

She has already had four rounds of chemotherapy. She says her only hope now is immunotherapy, but it is not available on the NHS and she cannot afford it without funding.

Her second husband Peter Swain also worked with asbestos while he was a joiner for Trains of Rochdale, Vivienne says. Peter died from kidney cancer in 2006. Vivienne’s lawyer is still hunting for Trains of Rochdale’s insurers in hope of a payout.

Vivienne first went to the doctor in May 2015 after getting breathless while climbing stairs. An X-ray revealed a third of her lung had collapsed. Three months of tests followed at Fairfield General Hospital and Wythenshawe Hospital before her diagnosis of incurable mesothelioma. When doctors told her she only had three years to live, Vivienne replied: “I guarantee you I’ll still be here in five.”

The diagnosis was ‘a hell of a shock’, says Vivienne, having always been fit and healthy. Telling her three sons was ‘the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do’, she says. Her sons asked if they had a ‘ticking timebomb’ waiting for them too, since they were at home when their father returned from work every day in his overalls.

Her youngest son Todd, 26, was expecting his first baby and Vivienne was determined to meet her grand-child. Amelia is now 13 months old – and Vivienne hopes to survive to see her first day at school.

“What upsets me most is that I’m not only not going to be here for my own children, but for my grandchildren. But I look forward all the time. I don’t look back. I’m just unlucky that both my husbands were joiners, and both worked with asbestos. I don’t feel as if I have time for anger. I just feel passionate about raising awareness about mesothelioma.”

She cannot bear to tell her 85-year-old mother, who has vascular dementia, about her fatal diagnosis. Vivienne avoided seeing her during her chemo in case her mother realised she was unwell.

Vivienne said: “Government after government have known the dangers of asbestos but they have been swept under the carpet.”

Vivienne goes to The Greater Manchester Asbestos Victims Support Group every month with 20 fellow sufferers.

Her case is ‘a tragic example of how this killer dust devastates individual lives and entire families’, says her solicitor Steven Dickens, an asbestos disease specialist at Thompsons Solicitors.

A spokesperson for Manchester council said: “It is always deeply regrettable when anybody has contracted mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related illness, but it would be inappropriate for us to comment on this case at the present time.”

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