Page last updated at 12:33 GMT, Thursday, 22 April 2010 13:33 UK

Firms criticised over asbestos work

Employees of two companies worked at an asbestos contaminated factory without proper protective clothing, an industrial tribunal has been told.

Bridgeline Environmental Services (BES) and Bridgeline Demolition Limited (BDL) were working on the Courtaulds site in Carrickfergus.

Asbestos generic
White, blue and brown asbestos are banned in the UK

They appealed two notices issued by the Health and Safety Executive stopping them from cutting up a contaminated boiler at the site.

The Health and Safety Executive was also criticised for not doing enough to minimise risk after it found asbestos contamination had resulted from work on the boiler.

The tribunal heard that Health and Safety Executive staff visiting the site on 23 July 2009 saw a BES employee on top of the boiler using cutting gear with no scaffolding in place, no edge protection and no enclosure around it to stop contamination.

The industrial boiler had been moved to an open space at the front of the building by Paddy Kearney, a director of CDC (NI) Ltd - the company which owns the site. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of PBN Holdings Limited.

When clearance was granted for work on the boiler to go ahead on 10 July, an independent analyst found there were no asbestos containing materials (ACMs) around it.

On 4 August 2009, it found evidence of asbestos contamination in an 1,700 square metre area.

The prohibition notices stopping the work on the boiler were issued on 24 July after the results of samples taken from around the boiler by the Health and Safety Executive were known.

The samples contained brown asbestos.

BES and BDL's claim that there was no contamination when they left the site on 23 July and their suggestion that someone else must have put it there, was rejected by the tribunal.

The basic function of health and safety rules and their implementation is to properly manage risk. There has been a signal failure to do so in this case.
Industrial tribunal

The companies' employees had left the site after the health and safety executives first saw what they suspected to be asbestos around the boiler

The tribunal also found that Northern Ireland Electricity employees working on the site at the same time were put at risk by the contamination.

While it upheld the HSE's prohibition notices, the tribunal criticised the executive for not taking steps to remedy the contamination and reduce the risks for anyone on the site.

"The risk posed by the asbestos contamination of 1,700 square metres of this site should have been ameliorated much more quickly and not left to chance and the elements," it said.

"It seems extraordinary to us that having identified a risk of serious personal injury and after sampling had shown a wide area of contamination and further that third parties (NIE) were identified as having access to the site... the HSE took absolutely no steps to minimise the risk until the tribunal expressed its disquiet and concern.

"This led, belatedly, to a clean-up of the area by the appellants to the satisfaction of the HSE and the independent analyst."

The prohibition notice is still in place, preventing any work on the contaminated boiler, although the area around it has been cleaned.

The tribunal said it was concerned that after six months of negotiations between a licensed contractor and the HSE a solution has not been agreed.

"The basic function of health and safety rules and their implementation is to properly manage risk," it said.

"There has been a signal failure to do so in this case."

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