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Work compensation claims for exposure

Asbestos danger sign
14th May 2014

A Cardiff letting agent has been sentenced after a handyman was exposed to asbestos-containing material while carrying out work on a client's property, which could result in work compensation claims after the man became vulnerable to potentially deadly illnesses.

A self-employed handyman from Cardiff, who does not wish to be named, regularly carried out work on properties managed by Rochefort Shugar Ltd and on 15 October 2010 was sent to a domestic property in Sully to fix a leaking porch roof.

As he was removing a sheet of material from the underside panel of the damaged roof, he realised it was asbestos-containing insulation board.

The sheet was broken during removal and the surrounding area was contaminated with asbestos debris, in circumstances that could now result in accident claims.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuting, told Barry Magistrates' Court the removal of the panel and the sweeping up and bagging of the debris would have resulted in the significant release of asbestos fibres into the air.

The handyman wore two dust masks while removing the board on 15 October 2010, but did not undergo any decontamination procedures and was not wearing a protective, disposable suit.

The court heard the fibres could have contaminated his hair, skin and clothing and may also have been inhaled, meaning successful accident compensation claims are likely to be made by the man, should he decide to proceed with legal action.

The HSE investigation found the handyman had not been given any indication asbestos was present in the property, No risk assessment was carried out or method statement compiled, and Rochefort Shugar made no attempt to ensure he was competent to identify or work with asbestos.
A licensed asbestos contractor was later called in to decontaminate the area, to ensure no further people were put at risk of exposure to the substance.

Rochefort Shugar Ltd. of Tudor House, 16 Cathedral Road, Cardiff were found guilty of breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £1,500 and with £2,500 costs.

HSE Inspector, Steve Richardson said:

"Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and should be treated with extreme caution.

"Those in charge of maintenance and repair of buildings must ensure work is carried out by competent tradesmen, and that consideration is given to the presence of hazards such as asbestos. More information on risk assessment can be found on the HSE website and the Hidden Killer website."

Posted by Bryony Flack-Crane