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Northern Ireland company fined for asbestos breaches

Published 07/12/2015

Workers cut through an asbestos insulation board ceiling
Workers cut through an asbestos insulation board ceiling

A Northern Ireland company has been fined for failing to protect its employees from exposure to asbestos.

Digital Fire and Security (NI) Limited was brought before Dungannon Crown Court today, following an incident in November 2013 that was reported to the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI).

The company had been contracted to install a new fire alarm system at premises on Moneymore Road in Cookstown.

But HSENI’s investigation found that there was no asbestos management plan for the premises and that Digital Fire and Security (NI) Limited had failed to request a copy of such a plan prior to the commencement of their work. 

While undertaking the work, two Digital Fire and Security (NI) Limited employees cut through an asbestos insulation board ceiling and as a result were exposed to asbestos.

The company was fined £1,000 plus costs of £800.

Speaking after the hearing, Anne Boylan, an inspector with HSENI’s Major Investigation Team said: “As a result of the failings of Digital Fire and Security Limited, people were unnecessarily exposed to asbestos.

"This incident could have been avoided if information had been provided by the premises owners on the presence of asbestos in the building. However, work to install the new fire alarm system should not have commenced until a copy of the asbestos management plan had been requested, received and reviewed by the alarm installation company.

"The risks of asbestos are well known, as are the controls required in dealing with it. Exposure to asbestos can have fatal or serious long term health consequences and every precaution must be taken to minimise any risks when working on buildings.”

Any building constructed before the year 2000 can potentially contain asbestos. Tradespeople, such as electricians, plumbers and joiners and anyone who works on the fabric of a building, and who could potentially disturb asbestos, are most at risk of exposure.

Those in control of non-domestic premises have a duty to locate and identify all asbestos containing materials and manage their condition. This information should be contained in an asbestos management plan and should be passed on to anyone who is likely to work on the fabric of the building.

Before starting work ideally at the tendering stage, those responsible for work on the structure of the building should ask for a copy of the asbestos management plan for the building. If one does not exist or if they have any concerns over the accuracy or content of the plan, work should not start. 

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