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HSE rapped for asbestos lapse

By Lindsay Fergus

The Health and Safety Executive has come under fire from the Industrial Tribunals for breaching its own guidelines, the Belfast Telegraph can today reveal.

Although an industrial tribunal upheld HSE’s decision to issue a demolition company with a prohibition notice following the discovery of asbestos at a site in Co Antrim, it heavily criticised HSE’s actions.

Asbestos was found by HSE inspectors at the Courtaulds site in Carrickfergus in July 2009 but the quango, which falls under the remit of the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment, has been accused of “signal failure” in the case.

The tribunal stated in its conclusions: “The essence of Health and Safety legislation concerns the reasonable and sensible management of risk. This was lacking in this case.

“The risk posed by the asbestos contamination of 1,700 sq m of this site should have been ameliorated much more quickly and not left to chance and the elements. It seems extraordinary to us that having identified a risk of serious personal injury, and after sampling had shown a wide area of contamination and further that third parties were identified as having access to the site who had no knowledge or indeed expertise of the hazard identified, the HSE took absolutely no steps to minimise the risk until this tribunal expressed its disquiet and concern.

“This led, belatedly, to a clean up of the area by the appellants to the satisfaction of the HSE and the independent analyst.”

In a final paragraph, it added: “The tribunal is concerned that professional and expert parties, such as HSE and a licensed contractor, cannot find an agreed or acceptable way forward after some six months of negotiations involving the assistance of experts drawn from outside the jurisdiction. The basic function of the Health and Safety rules and their implementation is to properly manage risk. There has been a signal failure to do so in this case.”

There was one positive outcome for HSE after the panel unanimously affirmed HSE’S Prohibition Notice, which was served on Bridgeline Demolition and its sister company Bridgeline Environmental Services last July.

The ruling comes almost two months after an Industrial Tribunal hearing appeal by Bridgeline concluded at Killymeal House in Belfast’s Gasworks.

In its conclusions the tribunal stated: “On July 23 2009, when the inspectors visited the site, there were no controlled measures in place to control the release of asbestos.

“There was, in the tribunal’s opinion, a material risk of asbestos fibres being transported from the site on clothing and equipment.”

But the tribunal has ruled out any criminal proceedings stating that the prohibition notice is “clearly sufficient”.

Belfast Telegraph


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