SSE Homesea Ltd have pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 after they exposed 13 employees and contractors to asbestos.
The company operate a natural gas storage facility on the East Yorkshire coast. The breach occurred when three mechanical personnel were asked to remove an air distribution system valve. When removing the valve, the workers had difficulty removing some of the sealing gasket material. In order to remove this, they used a wire brush and an electric drill. Whilst the sealing material was effectively removed, the removal caused dust and fibres to be spread around the workshop and onto the workers’ clothes.
Two days later, a company employee reported concerns about the dust and had a sample tested. The results showed that the material contained chrysotile (white asbestos). Subsequently, the workshop was closed to prevent any further employees being exposed to asbestos.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) brought the case against the company in Beverley Magistrates’ Court. They found that the company had not properly risk assessed the task, and failed to identify the presence of asbestos gaskets. On-site records that should have assisted in identifying the asbestos were inadequate, and the maintenance team leader had not had any asbestos awareness training.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2 (1) and 3 (1) if the Health and Safety at Work Act etc. 1974. They were fined £300,000.
Once again, it is good to see the HSE taking such breaches so seriously. However, it is disheartening to see that these breaches still happen in the first place. Anyone who could possibly come into contact with asbestos needs thorough asbestos awareness training. The only way to stop people developing mesothelioma, is to stop asbestos exposure. 13 people have been exposed to asbestos because of this company’s poor record-keeping and training. They now face a wait of between 10 and 50 years to see if they will develop any asbestos-related diseases.
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