Failure to protect workers brings fine for asbestos removal company

The director of an asbestos management company has been handed a prison sentence after failing to protect workers from coming into contact with asbestos during a Plymouth refurbishment project.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard that in February 2017, workers at Ensure Asbestos Management Limited voiced concerns due to believing that their safety was being compromised as they undertook refurbishment work at a department store in the Devon city.

Chelmsford Crown Court

Company found to have deliberately cut corners in its asbestos management

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) commenced an investigation, and discovered irregularities in the asbestos surveys and clearance certificates, with some of them turning out to be fraudulent.

Ensure Asbestos Management Limited had been contracted to undertake an asbestos survey and remove all identified asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) from the building, followed by carrying out an initial strip-out of the structure in readiness for its refurbishment.

However, the regulator found that the firm had intentionally cut corners in its management of the danger of asbestos exposure, risking its workers’ health in the process.

A hefty fine and a period of imprisonment

Ensure Asbestos Management Limited of Station Road, Sawbridgeworth in Hertfordshire admitted guilt to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. A fine of £100,000 was also imposed on the company – but with the firm being in liquidation, no order for costs was made, due to there being no prospect of a payment being made.

As the director of the company, Billy Hopwood of Swanstead, Basildon in Essex pleaded guilty to breaches of Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. He received a 10-month prison sentence, immediate concurrent on each charge. He also faces five years’ disqualification as a director.

Phillip Hopwood of Harlow in Essex also worked at Ensure Asbestos Management Limited as Contracts Manager; he admitted guilt to breaching Sections 2(1), 3(1) and 33(1)(m) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. His sentencing was adjourned until a later date.

“The dangers associated with asbestos are well known”

Inspector for HSE, Georgina Symons, commented after the hearing: “Ensure Asbestos Management Limited – a previously licensed asbestos removal contractor – failed to work within the law despite having a wealth of knowledge on the risks associated with exposure to asbestos and the necessary training to have done so safely. They deliberately falsified documents and cut corners.

“Workers should be supported by their employers when they raise health or safety concerns.

“The dangers associated with asbestos are well known and a wealth of advice and guidance is freely available from HSE and other organisations.”

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