A Co Antrim roofing company has been fined £9,000 for failing to ensure the safety of its employees and for breaching regulations surrounding the removal of asbestos. The firm was also ordered to pay £1,500 towards prosecution costs after being brought to court on four separate charges.
The company’s offending emerged after an employee fell through the roof of a garage he was working on in June last year. The incident – which left the member of staff with significant injuries including multiple fractures – also exposed a lack of training and assessment when it came to asbestos.
The company admitted the four charges brought against it by the HSE NI , which included failing to ensure the health and safety of employees, failing to provide an asbestos assessment, failing to provide asbestos training and also failing to prevent exposure to asbestos.
The Crown prosecutor said that in June 2013, several members of staff were working on the roof of a garage in Belfast. One of the employees fell through the roof when an asbestos sheet snapped, and during the fall he banged off scaffolding and landed between the scaffolding and the wall. The severely injured man was rushed to hospital where he was treated for multiple fractures. He is now back at work after extensive treatment.
The roofing firm was contracted to remove concrete slabs from inside the property which contained asbestos. These slabs were bolted in, presenting a difficult task, and the initial plan was that a mobile scaffolding unit would be moved along the distance of the building and would be lowered and raised as needed.
However, when it was determined that this was not possible, staff on site were tasked to go on to the roof and use a grinder to cut away some of the nails securing the sheets.
The court determined that the firm had not carried out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment before starting the work, which if completed would have set out how to remove the asbestos roof sheets safely. Neither had the company provided adequate training for its employees who could have been exposed to asbestos fibres or taken the necessary precautions to limit the exposure to asbestos.
Following the incident, an investigation was launched and it was determined that the company had failed to provide the necessary asbestos training to the five on-site staff members, and it had also failed to test the concrete sheets which contained asbestos before staff started work on the garage.
The firm has been in business for 40 years and has never been in court before for any health & safety failings. They admitted to a certain naivety to working with and managing asbestos. The company has since undertaken Asbestos training however they no longer undertake any asbestos work.