Workers given baby wipes to remove asbestos, court told

A building company carrying out work in Essex has been fined for unlicensed asbestos removal and failing to protect its workers from falls of up to four metres.

Workers on the project, at a farm building in Waltham, were potentially exposed to dangerous asbestos fibres and only given baby wipes or access to a hose for decontamination.

Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court was told that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated by a member of the public concerned about that unsafe work was being undertaken at the farm building.

The HSE found that Suffolk-based LJW Cladding Ltd did not have a licence permitting it to remove asbestos, despite telling the farm owner it held the necessary approvals.

None of the workers were trained to work with licensed asbestos and were also placed in danger of falling from height while removing asbestos boards.

As the boards were broken from their fixings, was no use of an enclosure to prevent the uncontrolled release of fibres and the respiratory protective equipment given to workers provided inadequate protection.

Instead of the three-stage decontamination unit required for such work, all the workers had access to were baby wipes and the farm’s cold water hose. They continued to wear contaminated overalls over their normal clothes during lunch breaks and could have taken asbestos contamination home with them each night.

The investigation also identified the workers were at risk of falls of up to four metres due to absent or inadequately installed safety netting and a harness and inertia reel being used inappropriately.

LJW Cladding Ltd of Ipswich, Suffolk, was fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,365.50 plus a £120 victim surcharge after pleading guilty to separate breaches of the Work at Height Regulations and the Control of Asbestos Regulations.

HSE principal inspector Dominic Elliss said on 5 February: “LJW Cladding’s incompetent actions led to its employees being potentially exposed to asbestos fibres at a much higher level than would have been possible had a competent licensed contractor been used.

“In addition there was a serious risk one of them could fall from or through the fragile roof because of the firm failed to provide effective safeguards.”

Palmers can provide comprehensive advice to employers on all aspects of health and safety management in the workplace, including those relating to asbestos-related risk assessment and risk management.

For clarification or guidance on health and safety responsibilities, representation in investigatory interviews related to a breach of regulations or facing prosecution, please contact our health and safety specialists Lara Murray and Jeremy Sirrell.