Asbestos surveyors in court after workers put at risk

Two asbestos surveyors have appeared in court after construction workers were exposed to potentially-deadly fibres during the refurbishment of a Trafford pub.
 
David Harold and Shaun Hodgson were prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after they failed to identify the presence of asbestos at 32 different locations in the former Sale Hotel on Marsland Road in Sale.
 
Trafford Magistrates’ Court was told today (21 December 2012) that Mr Harold, 49, and Mr Hodgson, 32, were hired to carry out a full asbestos survey at the disused pub ahead of a major refurbishment project to bring it back into use.
 
They produced a report following a visit to the site on 31 May 2011, which was used by the principal contractor to identify which areas were safe to refurbish and which required a licensed company to remove asbestos before any work could take place.
 
However, the report failed to identify large amounts of asbestos in the basement. As a result, workers were exposed to potentially-deadly fibres as they carried out refurbishment work, installed pipes and fitted cabling.
 
The company overseeing the project immediately stopped the refurbishment work and brought in a specialist firm when one of its employees raised concerns that additional unidentified asbestos may be present in the basement.
 
The asbestos insulation material was not hidden, and was easily spotted in the second survey.
 
David Harold, of Balmoral Drive in Beverley, East Yorkshire, and Shaun Hodgson, of Sherbourne Cottages in Newton upon Derwent, York, each pleaded guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 after they put the health of workers at risk.
 
They were each ordered to carry out 40 hours of community service in the next year and to each pay £1,500 towards the cost of the prosecution.
 
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Matt Greenly said:
 
“Asbestos consultants and surveyors perform a vitally important role in the construction industry and are relied on to keep workers safe.
 
“Construction companies trust their expert opinions to help prevent workers from being exposed to asbestos fibres. It’s therefore essential that they do not take their minds off the job when carrying out asbestos surveys.
 
“Sadly Mr Harold and Mr Hodgson’s work fell way below acceptable standards, despite them being well trained and seemingly experienced asbestos surveyors.
 
“It is hard to understand how they could have missed so much asbestos material during their survey when it was so plainly obvious to others.”
 
Asbestos insulation was commonly used up until the 1980s to help insulate pipes and structural steel within buildings. This insulation can become highly dangerous if it is unsealed or disturbed and asbestos fibres are released into the air.
 
Fibres that are breathed in can become lodged in the lungs or digestive tract, and may lead to lung cancer or other diseases if large numbers of fibres are inhaled. However, symptoms may not appear for several decades.
 
Around 4,000 people die every year as a result of breathing in asbestos fibres, making it the biggest single cause of work-related deaths in the UK. Information on how to work safely with asbestos is available at www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos.