HSE prosecutes electrical contractor for failing to make employee aware of asbestos risks

An electrical contractor has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive for failing to supply its employees with adequate information and training on asbestos.

Scriven Electrical Contractors from West Bromwich was fined £3,000 today under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The firm was also ordered to pay £2,757 in costs for breaching the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.

The court heard that an electrician employed by Scriven installed three heat detectors and associated cabling in a commercial-sized kitchen and boiler room on premises in Smethwick.

The ceiling tiles contained 5-50% brown asbestos but no asbestos awareness training was given by his employer prior to commencement of the work, despite a legal requirement.

Speaking after the case, HSE inspector John Healy said the firm: “should have known of the dangers and the legal requirement to give sufficient training to protect employees from exposure to asbestos because 98% of their work involves the risk of encountering asbestos.”

He added: “Those responsible for employees ordinarily have a legal duty to protect their health and safety but, in the case of asbestos those involved in building or refurbishment must know that any disturbance of such a dangerous material should only be completed by trained workers."

Exposure to asbestos is the biggest single cause of work-related deaths, with around 4,000 people a year dying from asbestos-related disease. The overall number of deaths is rising because a large number of workers who have already been exposed to asbestos dust around 40 years ago will go on to develop mesothelioma, a terminal cancer or other asbestos-related diseases.

The number of asbestos-related workplace deaths exceeds the figure of deaths in road accidents.