A contractor from Bury has been jailed after he admitted to removing asbestos illegally.
Mr David Briggs, aged 75, was trading under the name ‘Briggs Demolition’ when he was working on the demolition of the former Oakbank Training Centre in Oldham.
Prior to carrying out the work, Mr Briggs advised the owners of the site to have an asbestos survey done. They paid a surveyor, who was incidentally recommended by Mr Briggs, to conduct a full asbestos survey. The report found around 230 square metres of asbestos materials throughout the site, which should have been removed safely before any demolition work was started.
Despite having advised that the asbestos survey should be done, Mr Briggs ignored the report and began the demolition work.
In 2015, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) visited the site and found that half of the buildings had been demolished. When asked about the presence of asbestos, Mr Briggs denied that there was any.
The HSE served a prohibition notice, stopping work on site until the extent of any asbestos disturbance was known. It was found that, potentially, three workers had been exposed to asbestos fibres. In addition to this, local residents and passersby may have also been exposed.
Mr Briggs was charged with illegally removing asbestos materials without a license, failing to protect the safety of employees, failing to protect members of the public and failing to prevent the spread of asbestos. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 24 weeks in prison.
While we are pleased to see the HSE being proactive and successfully prosecuting an employer for such woeful neglect, it is dismaying that again innocent workers and members of the public have been put at risk of asbestos exposure. This is particularly galling when it was Mr Briggs who suggested the asbestos report be done in the first place, only to ignore it!
A prison sentence for this may seem harsh but it is likely that Mr Briggs will not be troubled by an asbestos condition, as they take between 10 and 50 years to manifest. He has to endure 24 weeks in prison but those he may have exposed to asbestos face up to 50 years of uncertainty as to whether they will be hit by a terrible condition such as mesothelioma.
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