Asbestos and the dangers faced

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Two companies have been fined after workers were exposed to asbestos during refurbishment work at a Kettering hospital.

Contractors Simons Construction Ltd hired Rilmac Insulation Ltd to carry out an asbestos survey for them before work began on Martin Roth ward at St Mary’s Hospital.

The survey identified an asbestos coating on the underside of the ceilings, but missed over 200 sqm of asbestos insulation board (AIB) above.

Northampton Magistrates’ Court was told on Tuesday that when two workers contracted to Simons were told to knock holes in the ceilings on December 17, 2009, they were not told it contained asbestos and they disturbed both layers.

Their masks were not the correct type, they were not wearing protective overalls and they were not working in a way that would minimise and contain the release of fibres.

Asbestos material landed on their clothes, which they wore for the rest of the day increasing their chances of contamination.

The court heard the workers unwittingly increased the risk to themselves when they swept up the debris and left it in a pile on the floor.

It was only discovered when a company contracted to remove the ceilings came onto the ward in January 2010 and recognised the material.

A licensed asbestos removal company then spent several weeks removing the ceilings.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the fully qualified surveyor from Rilmac Insulation Ltd had identified asbestos on the underside of the plasterboard ceiling, which did not need to be removed by licensed contractors, but had failed to identify the layer of AIB above it, which did.

The HSE also found the two men carrying out the work for Simons had not been trained to recognise asbestos containing materials or how to work safely with it.

Both Lincoln firms pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety legislation.

Simons Construction Ltd was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,911 while Rilmac Insulation Ltd was fined £3,500 with costs of £2,911.

After the hearing, Health and Safety Executive Inspector Martin Giles said: “Rilmac failed to properly identify the full extent of asbestos in the ceiling.

“Simons, despite knowing from the survey that some was present, failed to provide a safe system of work, to supervise matters sufficiently and to pass on the information it did have adequately to its contractors.”