April News

Director jailed for failing to protect workers from asbestos exposure

A company director has been jailed for eight months after failing to protect workers from exposure to asbestos at a student development project in Winchester.

Stephen Davies, 59, had set up Cavendish Winchester Ltd with the sole purpose of refurbishing the Winnall Close commercial unit into student rental accommodation. His co-director Neil Bolton, 56, was spared an immediate spell behind bars when he was handed a four-month suspended sentence at Southampton Crown Court on 27 March 2024. The company itself was fined £30,000 – with all three defendants pleading guilty.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed the company removed an estimated ten tonnes of asbestos insulating board (AIB) during the refurbishment in late 2019 and early 2020. The dangerous materials were stripped out by workers unqualified to do the job and unaware of the risks to their health.

Debris outside the Cavendish centre
  • The issue of asbestos more widely, and improving knowledge of the dangers, is the focus of two HSE campaigns. Guidance on asbestos safetyhas recently been updated and the current Asbestos: Your Duty campaign aims to improve understanding of what the legal duty to manage asbestos involves.

The investigation arose when HSE received a concern that large quantities of AIB had been illegally removed. The work was all carried out under the direction of Stephen Davies.

The court was told both directors were aware of the considerable extent and quantity of the materials containing asbestos within the building, as they had previously sought legitimate quotes for its competent removal.

However, they chose to save a considerable sum of money by avoiding properly planned, safe removal, by a Licenced Asbestos Removal Contractor. They knowingly exposed workers to significant risk to their health. In addition, the investigation was unable to determine where a very sizeable quantity of asbestos-contaminated debris ended up, such that others in the waste removal chain were likely to have been put at risk too.

All three defendants pleaded guilty to charges relating to a lack of adequate management of the removal of asbestos containing materials.

The ground and first floor of the building with AIB present on the walls

Both Stephen Davies and Neil Bolton pleaded guilty to Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, by causing their company, The Cavendish Winchester Ltd, to breach Section 4(1) of the Act.

  • Davies, of Petworth, West Sussex was given an immediate custodial sentence of 8 months in prison.
  • Bolton, of Petworth, West Sussex was given a custodial sentence of four months, suspended for 12 month, with 250 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay costs of over £5,123.
  • The Cavendish Winchester Ltd, of Newtown House, Liphook, was fined £30,000.00.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE principal inspector Steve Hull said: “We brought this case because, despite the directors of this company being put on notice of the risks involved, they put profit before the health of those they employed.

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

“Structural refurbishment which either exposes or is liable to expose people to asbestos fibres should only be carried out by competent persons working to a strict plan of work to ensure safety. Higher risk asbestos removal, such as the removal of AIB, can only legally be carried out by Licenced Asbestos Removal Contractors who have the knowledge and equipment to prevent the spread of fibres and properly protect the workers undertaking the removal work.

“This work involved the removal of an estimated ten tonnes of AIB.

“The defendants then tried to cover their tracks by legitimising the removal of a small amount of residual asbestos containing materials, after illegally stripping out the majority, by obtaining a new quote for legal removal of that very small remaining portion. This deliberate attempt to save money, when they knew full well that the workers would have to live with the possibility of developing serious asbestos-related disease in the future, makes the case particularly serious.”

This case was brought by HSE enforcement lawyer Kate Harney, who was supported by Paralegal Officer Helen Jacob

Horticulture company fined after lorry driver suffers life changing injuries

A horticulture company has been fined £3,000 after a lorry driver suffered third degree burns on his body while making a delivery to a site in Essex.

The man had been delivering a load of hardcore aggregate to Plants Galore Horticulture Limited’s Eagle Nursery in Hamlet Hill, Roydon. His lorry had a tipper and grab arm and after tipping the load, struck 11kV overhead power lines which ran across the yard.

He exited the cab, believing he had struck a telephone cable, and in doing so received an electric shock while holding the handle of the door, when his feet touched the ground. He suffered third degree burns on his body and required multiple skin grafts for injuries to his right forearm, right and left foot, and just above his right knee. He also had exposed tendons in his right forearm and had amputations of the fourth and fifth toes on his left foot.

Essex Police took this photograph at the scene showing where the vehicle struck the overhead power line

Accidental contact with live overhead power lines kills people and causes many serious injuries each year. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has guidance about to how to plan and manage work near overhead powerlines.

A HSE investigation found that Plants Galore Horticulture Limited had failed to provide information and instructions on risks, including locations of overhead power lines and what precautions to take. The company failed to erect ground-level barriers to establish a safety zone to keep people and machinery away from the powerlines. An exclusion zone of 3 metres around the 11kV wires should also have been adhered to.

Scorch marks on the ground can be seen on the ground where the incident happened

Plants Galore Horticulture Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Section 4(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £3,000 and was ordered to pay £4,000 costs at a hearing at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court on 28 March 2024.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Connor Stowers said: “Employers should make sure they properly assess and apply effective control measures to minimise the risk from striking overhead powerlines.

“If a suitable safe system of work had been in place prior to this incident, the life changing injuries sustained by the worker could have been prevented.”

Tobacco firm fined £32,000 following machinery failures

28th March 2024

An Ipswich-based tobacco manufacturer has been fined £32,000 after failing to put measures in place to prevent access to the rotating blades of a ribbon blade mixer.

Whole-body access was possible for employees using the machine, which presented a risk of serious personal injury from an employee coming into contact with the rotating blade.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Honeyrose Products Limited failed to put appropriate measures in place to ensure that access to the dangerous parts of machinery was prevented.

HSE guidance says employers should consider how their workers use machinery and have adequate maintenance arrangements in place to ensure it remains sage to use. HSE

Honeyrose Products Limited of Alpha Business Park, White House Road, Ipswich pleaded guilty to a breach of Regulation 11(1) of The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and Regulation 3(1) of The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

The company was fined £32,000 and was ordered to pay costs of £12,583 at a hearing at Ipswich Magistrates Court on 28 March 2024.

After the hearing HSE Inspector Julia Beavis said “Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

HSE Construction News

April is Stress Awareness month

Use Stress Awareness Month to make it routine to prevent stress and support mental health at work, and encourage others in the construction industry too.

We’re inviting employers and managers to complete the 5 steps of our Working Minds campaign over the course of the month – whether that’s learning how, or actually taking action.

5 steps in 5 weeks

  • Reach out and have conversations
  • Recognise the signs and causes of stress
  • Respond to any risks identified by agreeing action points
  • Reflect on the actions taken – have things improved?
  • Make it Routine to check back in on how things are going

Global Asbestos Awareness Week – risks highlighted

Following Global Asbestos Awareness Week earlier this month (1 – 7 April), we are highlighting HSE’s asbestos campaigns.

Asbestos remains in millions of buildings and homes today and it can become dangerous when disturbed or damaged. We are currently running 2 asbestos campaigns:

Asbestos and You

Our Asbestos and You campaign urges tradespeople to stay aware of hidden asbestos and protect themselves and others from exposure to asbestos fibres during their work.

Resources include:

Asbestos: Your Duty

This campaign raises awareness of the legal duty to manage asbestos in buildings and aims to reach those responsible for maintenance and repair of non-domestic buildings built before the year 2000.

Resources are available to support those with the legal duty to manage asbestos:

Duty to manage asbestos in buildings webinar
15 May (am), live online

We are also hosting a free webinar in which we will highlight where asbestos is likely to be found and explain why it is dangerous. In addition we’ll take you through the process of carrying out an effective asbestos risk assessment and how to complete an asbestos management plan. 

No Falls Week: 13 – 17 May

Falls from height continue to be the most common cause of fatal accidents to construction workers.

HSE’s construction industry statistics show that falls from height were the cause of around half (51%) of the construction worker fatalities in 2022/23.

The No Falls Foundation is launching its first ever No Falls Week, a campaign dedicated to promoting safe working at height.

Sign up to get involved and get access to the No Falls Week resources hub where you can download materials to support the campaign.

Visit HSE’s website for more guidance and information on working at height.

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