Asbestos is still a very serious issue for many businesses, this blog will explain the importance of businesses ensuring their staff are appropriately trained and are carrying out procedures properly and the serious implications of what can happen if they are not.
I was speaking with a colleague who explained that they'd had a terrible experience of asbestos in their own home. A new boiler had been fitted which led to burst pipe and leak in the kitchen, this had damaged some of the electrics including the underfloor heating. This led to an insurance claim being made to carryout repairs. The insurer had used one of their contractors to carry out the work. This included a small team of people and project manager. The work began to remove the floor tiles while my colleague was at work.
When she got home, she noticed something that caused concerned – she recalled something about old lino floor tiles having asbestos. The workers had removed the top layer of tiles and had disturbed the original lino tiles that were there since the property was built in the 1930's. She asked have these tiles been tested for asbestos? The answer was “No”. She said where is the project manager? “He's not here” answered the labourer - “Does he know about this?” she said, “I sent him a picture and he said it's fine.” replied the labourer. “Umm... sorry... that is not good enough!!! This needs to be tested immediately, now that the tiles have been disturbed. If there is asbestos my 5-year-old daughter, partner (who already has a lung problem) and myself cannot stay in this house. I need to know immediately if it is safe to stay here?” “Umm I don't know, I don't know.” responded the labourer. “Well It is clear you don't know what you are doing, or you wouldn't have dug up the whole floor without testing it when you first saw the lino tiles underneath. I'm calling your manager. Work must stop now for everyone’s safety.”
After lots of heated discussion and phone calls to the contractor and the insurance company, my colleague personally had to instruct an asbestos surveyor to perform tests, as neither the contractor or insurance company were taking the matter seriously at all. As it turned out the surveyor arrived within the hour and performed tests which proved there was asbestos and that it whilst it was not serious as it could have been, it still had to be removed. The implications of this were and still are far reaching. The family had to move out of the property temporarily while the asbestos was removed. Because the original lino tiles were all the way across the floor the kitchen units had to be removed leaving the family without a kitchen – during the Christmas holiday. Other outcomes were that home owner had to formally complain to the insurer/ and ombudsman. The insurance company took legal action against the contractor. Long term however there may be unidentified health implications for the family and labourers who carried out the work – potential leading to further legal action in future.
Most of these issues were avoidable if not manageable if the correct processes and procedures had been followed. There were several crucial steps missed in this case which would have prevented this situation from occurring.
However, the awful reality in this real life situation (where the worst did actually happen) - further mistakes were made.
The list goes on really. It’s scary to think that large insurance companies and contractors can continue legally operate in these circumstances. However, that is another blog!
This story is not unique however, far from it. The crux of the matter is asbestos is a deadly serious matter – and every aspect of specialist advice and procedures must be followed for the benefit of everyone’s health and safety, and yet all too often it is not.
Abbott Rose Consulting LTD provides a range of consultancy services looking at risk assessments, asbestos management and training. If you, your staff or your business need help with Asbestos related health and safety documentation and compliance please get in touch today.
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All Rights Reserved.