A property manager in Cardiff has been found guilty of breaching health and safety rules after a prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive.

Mr Richard Hayward, trading as Richard Hayward Properties, managed Rhondda Pressing Building, located on the Penygraig Industrial Estate, on behalf of Guinevere Holdings Limited. Mr Hayward had let out part of the building in 2007 but it was only in 2008 that the presence of asbestos was discovered in the building. The presence of asbestos was only in fact discovered when the insurers of the building requested that an asbestos survey be carried out. This survey found asbestos insulating board roof tiles and brown and blue asbestos tiles on the premises.

At least three companies, as well as contractors carrying out structural work on the building to install a partition wall and to carry out electrical works, could have been put at risk by the presence of the asbestos. Further, any person in the vicinity of the building could have been exposed to the risk of inhaling asbestos. There was clearly therefore a risk to the public’s health and safety posed by Mr Hayward’s failure to comply with the Health and Safety Act 1974.

Mr Hayward was in fact found guilty of breaching s.3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work 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.” Mr Hayward did not take the requisite steps necessary to discover whether asbestos was present (nor liable to be present) and he “failed to effectively identify and manage the risks arising from asbestos-containing materials at the building”. He was consequently fined £12,000 and ordered to pay costs in the case of £20,000.

Personal injury claims because of exposure to asbestos have, in the past decades or so, increased substantially. Inhalation of a single fibre of asbestos can cause lung and other diseases. It principally causes two types of cancer: lung cancer and mesothelioma (a cancer of the membrane between the lung and internal organs). The reason for the increase in claims is thought to be because of the use of asbestos in construction works in the past. As the diseases prevalent from the inhalation of asbestos do not manifest until a delay of 15 and 60 years this has caused a fairly sudden “spike” in these claims.

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