Better to be Safe than Sorry

Despite the wealth of information available and the regulations and legislation that should be adhered to, there are many companies in the asbestos industry that still take an ‘ignorance is bliss’ approach when it comes to removing asbestos or asbestos containing materials (ACMs) from properties. For example, it was in December this year that a man was fined for exposing himself, his assistant and the residents of a house in Putney to the deadly carcinogenic following the potential discovery of asbestos in the property’s boiler cupboard. While operating as part of an asbestos removal company, this man and his assistant were seen carrying unwrapped ACMs down four flights of stairs from the loft, a mistake that would result in hazardous asbestos dust being spread throughout the building. Once the materials had been removed, the homeowner also noticed a lot of dust and debris had been left in the loft, which has the potential to lead to health risks such as mesothelioma, pleurisy and lung cancer.

Once the tested samples indicated that the removed materials were likely to be made up of asbestos insulation board (AIB), the homeowner had to then hire a licensed asbestos contractor to clean the loft and remove all asbestos from the area. Following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) it became clear that the original work had been poorly carried out; further investigation revealed the man also did not hold a HSE granted license to carry out such work. By working in such a reckless manner, the man, his assistant and the family were exposed to a material that kills approximately 5000 workers each year.

Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland in December 2015, a company was fined for failing to protect its employees from exposure to asbestos following an incident that was reported to the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) in November 2013. Having been contracted to install a new fire alarm at premises in Cookstown, NI, the company did not request a copy of an asbestos management plan for the property before beginning work; this led to two employees cutting through an AIB and exposing themselves to asbestos. By not requesting, receiving or reviewing a copy of the asbestos management plan and instead starting work in a potentially hazardous location, the company chose to ignore the well‐known risks of disturbing asbestos in properties constructed before the year 2000 and put the health of their employees at risk.

Unfortunately these types of news stories are not rare occurrences and are likely to continue in the future unless those working in the business maintain a strong commitment to following the rules and regulations for operating in the asbestos industry. Moreover, those requiring asbestos surveying and removal work should always choose licensed contractors that have been regulated and approved by the HSE.

Although it may seem tempting to cut corners and save money, the end result could be devastating. With the National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimating that 11 million people were exposed to asbestos between 1940 and 1978 many people between their 50s and 80s are now being diagnosed with mesothelioma after a 20 to 50 year latency period. Because early symptoms are hard to diagnose, it takes a long time for people to realise they have the disease; by this point, statistics show that 40 per cent of pleural mesothelioma patients will survive one year after starting treatment. After five years, survival numbers lower to approximately eight per cent.

To prevent more people being affected by the dangers of asbestos we must fight ignorance with knowledge and continue to operate in a safe, efficient and careful manner.

As one of the first asbestos companies to be licensed by the HSE in 1983, we at ARG are proud of our first-class reputation for providing the very best service to our customers through continuous improvement of our operations and a commitment to meeting new legislative requirements. By ensuring our fully trained staff know their health and safety obligations, we can confidently find solutions to problems safely, all while keeping disruption and cost to a minimum.

Should those in London and the South East of England require asbestos survey and removal services, contact ARG for high quality, cost efficient solutions.

Telephone:  020 8804 8008

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