A company, its managing director, and a builder have been ordered to pay fines and costs after being held liable for breach of statutory duty (which could have caused personal injury) under the Health and Safety At Work etc. Act 1974.

Avon Freight Group Ltd (“AFG”), its managing director Simon Poole, and builder Ronald MacPhee were found guilty of breaching s.3(1) of the Health and Safety At Work etc Act 1974 after the Health and Safety Executive prosecuted them for potentially exposing persons to personal injury though exposure to asbestos.

In 2008 AFG decided to convert its unit in Hemming Road, Redditch into a revamped storage centre and headquarters. AFG’s architect proceeded to commission a survey on the site. This survey identified the presence of asbestos in the building. As the company wanted to completely flatten and rebuild the unit AFG’s architect therefore obtained quotes from three contractors licensed to remove and dispose of asbestos. However, instead of instructing one of these three contractors Simon Poole directed Ronald MacPhee to carry out the work instead, even though he did not possess the requisite licence.

Between April and May 2008 Mr MacPhee and two other builders extracted and removed approximately one and a half tonnes of asbestos from the site. The removed asbestos insulation board was disposed of as asbestos cement, which can be removed without a licence.

In October 2008 it was discovered that Mr MacPhee had incompetently removed the asbestos insulation board and that was therefore pieces of asbestos insulation board on the site. Asbestos was found both on the floor and on the walls. Further examination of the site found that there was a large amount of asbestos still present. This was dealt with by a licenced asbestos contractor.

The Health and Safety Executive investigation found that over a score of people could have inhaled the asbestos fibres between April and October 2008. This could have potentially caused personal injury to these people.

AFG, Mr MacPhee and Simon Poole were prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive were prosecuted under s.3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. S.3(1) states that: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”

AFG was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £26,147 costs. Simon Poole was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £26,147 costs. Mr MacPhee was fined £2,500 and ordered to pay £500 costs.

Marc Hadrill, a specialist personal injury solicitor at Redmans, stated that: “This case shows how important it is for companies to act in compliance with health and safety regulations when asbestos is dealt with. Incorrect removal of asbestos products can expose anyone in the vicinity to harmful asbestos fibres”.

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The Direct 2 Lawyers Employment Team post daily on interesting employment law cases, Employment Tribunal judgments and Employment Appeal Tribunal judgments. All of the Employment Team posts are written by qualified specialist employment lawyers

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