A fertiliser producer has been ordered to pay almost £80,000 after around 50 employees came into contact with extremely harmful asbestos fibres. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted after it found asbestos as the firm was renovating a 50 metre-high industrial furnace at its plant at Ince Marshes, near Ellesmere Port, in 2011.
Asbestos fear raised by employee
Chester Crown Court was told that contractors had been knocking down brickwork and insulation boards with hammers, chisels and crow bars. After two days, a bricklayer was concerned asbestos could be an issue, which was substantiated by analysis of material.
HSE investigators discovered GrowHow had not conducted a suitable asbestos survey prior to the project, despite it being clear that the work would result in large amounts of dust. Employees destroyed rubble before disposing of it down a chute from a sack, unaware the dust could have been made up of asbestos fibres. They were told to vacate the site when asbestos was found, while no chances were taken with their clothes and equipment.
GrowHow UK Ltd pleaded guilty to a breach of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 and two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined £60,000 with £17,094 payable in costs.
HSE inspector Daniel Longdon said: “If GrowHow had arranged a proper survey ahead of the work starting, then the asbestos would have been identified and a licensed contractor could have been brought in to remove it safely.”
In the region of 4,000 people lose their lives each year after breathing in asbestos fibres. It is the biggest killer in the workplace in Britain. Most people do not know they are ill for a number of decades.
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