A Hartlepool firm and two of its directors have been fined along with a second company after asbestos lagged steel work was removed as scrap, putting workers at risk of exposure to asbestos fibres.

A metal-recycling business agreed to remove the steel work from the site of a second company, on the basis that it would take the value of the scrap metal as payment for the work.

However, the steel on the site included several pipework systems covered in lagging containing asbestos fibres. Almost all of the pipework from the 1960s in the local area was lagged with asbestos. Site operators and contractors working at these sites should always assume that old pipework is lagged with asbestos unless there is reliable evidence that says otherwise. However in this instance pipework was removed by workers without the firm putting any measures in place to prevent the spread of asbestos fibres.

Teesside Magistrates’ Court heard that HSE inspectors visited the site in February 2013 after receiving a complaint from a worker at a neighbouring premises.

Inspectors saw both the directors of the metal-recycling business on the site, with a significant amount of pipework and damaged insulation scattered on the ground. One director was operating a mechanical excavator with a grab to move steel work from the ground into a skip.  A Prohibition Notice was served on the metal-recycling business to prevent further work. An Improvement Notice was also served on the site company that required it to carry out an asbestos survey and develop a system to ensure the results were shared with those likely to disturb any asbestos.  Tests carried out by HSE later confirmed that the insulation debris found lying on the ground did contain asbestos.

The court heard that the management of the site company had failed to ensure that information regarding the location and condition of asbestos containing materials (ACMs) on site had been provided to those liable to disturb it. Their asbestos management systems did not include any procedures relating to informing others of the presence of asbestos on the site as required by law.

Furthermore, the metal-recycling business had undertaken the work without carrying out the necessary assessment to determine whether asbestos was present and had also failed to take measures to prevent the spread of asbestos fibres. The personal involvement of both directors meant that they too were prosecuted as individuals.

As a result of the work carried out by the metal-recycling firm, asbestos debris was scattered over the working area, which exposed workers both there and on neighbouring sites to a potential risk to their health. This resulted in the site company having to environmentally clean the site.

The court agreed that both companies were equally culpable for the offences. As a result, the metal-recycling business was fined a total of £12,000 and ordered to pay £3,804.20 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulations 5(a) and 16 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

The Site company was fined £10,000 with £2,243.40 costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 4 of the same legislation.

The two directors also received fines and one received an order for costs.