17 Jun 2019
Asbestos abatement is an ongoing effort across the world, despite many thinking of the issues surrounding the deadly material being firmly in the past. This was illustrated recently in a case in the UK, that came before Telford Magistrates Court in the West Midlands that found NHS staff had been put at risk through failure to adhere to asbestos regulations.
The case highlighted that back in 2012, asbestos removal guidelines were ignored after ACMs (Asbestos Containing Materials) were disturbed during a flat refurbishment in an accommodation block on the NHS Trust site. When it was discovered that this had happened and that contractors working on the flats had been exposed, instead of contacting one of the registered asbestos companies in the area, no action was taken, meaning that even more people were needlessly put at severe risk.
Asbestos removal and disposal guidelines exist to protect anyone who comes into direct contact with the material, however, an investigation conducted by the UK Health & Safety Executive (HSE) determined that this particular NHS Trust site did not have adequate procedures in place and that as a result, inadequate action was taken to protect life by restricting access to the area in the aftermath of its discovery.
As a result, the court determined that after pleading guilty to the charges, the NHS Trust in question should pay £16,000 in fines and a further £18.385 in court costs.
Long-Term Effect Unknown
Whilst some may feel that justice has been served in this case, the fact is that anyone directly involved in the renovation works mentioned may not be aware of the damage to their health for decades, as the effects can lay dormant for as much as 30-40 years. Until the full effect of the negligence mentioned is known, we can’t fully grasp how lenient the imposed fines were.
What this case should also highlight is the fact that asbestos still represents a significant threat to life due to its ubiquity in buildings built before its banning at the end of the 20th century and only by raising awareness of the insipid threat it poses can needless deaths be prevented.