Business Director Shamed For Putting Workforce at Risk Of Contracting Cancer

In March 2023 the Health and Safety Executive through the medium of the Magistrates Court sitting in the city of Manchester imposed criminal convictions upon a business and one of its directors over allegations that they had neglected in their respective duties to carefully remove dangerous substances such as asbestos which could potentially be harmful to the health of persons operating in the workforce and the wider general population. The business was also found liable for not adhering to a notice of prohibition that aimed to stop the business from using regulated asbestos.  

What Did The Health And Safety Executive Say?

The HSE was scathing over the behavior exhibited by the business and those accountable for the day-to-day running of the organization, it found that the offending parties had violated regulations and 11 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. These regulations place obligations on such parties to safeguard the workforce when coming into contact with asbestos. It commented that the behavior of the business has put members of the workforce at risk of contracting cancer. 

Lessons Learned? 

So how can businesses protect themselves in the future from the wrath of the HSE and criminal courts? It would do no harm to follow the regulatory guidance as laid down by the HSE as it advises businesses in this position to consider taking the following steps if there is a reasonable belief that persons could be at risk of being adversely impacted by asbestos in the working environment. Persons in positions of responsibility need to consider: 

  • taking time to spot traces of asbestos in the area
  • Having in their minds that every variety of asbestos is unlawful
  • remembering that providing and using such unlawful substances is illegal
  • such parties affected by these asbestos-related regulations should assess what variety of asbestos they seem to be dealing with and
  • deep dive into its present state. 

Persons accountable for building upkeep should be advised of their management obligations in connection with commercial buildings containing potentially dangerous chemicals such as asbestos. To mitigate the risk accountable persons should remember that communication is fundamental. Such persons should be taking an honest stance by notifying urgently those persons who may find themselves adversely affected by asbestos.     
So what should one do if all else fails and such responsible persons are seemingly at a loss as to whether such potentially harmful asbestos-containing substances are present in the working environment? Again this is where industry the HSE can play its part. It advises such responsible persons facing this scenario to employ a qualified surveyor skilled to conduct a site visit with a view to collecting samples with a view to testing for suspect material of an asbestos nature. Another option open to such affected persons to consider is making a presumption that all matter covered is asbestos. By using this strategy it allows affected persons to consider taking action to soften the blow including:

  • assessing the chances of persons being open to such risks
  • choose if it is likely to conduct work on the buildings to reduce members of the workforce is left open to damaging substances
  • whether regulatory approval is required for such rectification works 
  • check the persons who may be open to damage from such incidents and 
  • do all they reasonably can to equip the workforce with the skills they need to manage asbestos in the work environment

If you have experienced something similar, or have an opposing viewpoint, please kindly leave a comment on the article or contact us.  
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