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Fine for Formac Electronics Ltd

20/09/11: A firm based in Bath has been prosecuted after an employee was accidently exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos, which is known to cause high levels of cancer.

The employee, a Jonathon Arnold, 49 years old from Castle Cary was undertaking pipe work installation for a new central heating network at Oxford House, Combe Down, Bath, when the plaintiff was accidently exposed to large levels of crocidolite (blue) asbestos.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was made against the owners of Formac Electronics Ltd, Bath, after the incident, and Bath Magistrates’ Court saw after the incident that during the refurbishment dangerous amounts of asbestos was disturbed, released and spread through the air. Bath Magistrates’ court also heard that the plaintiff must have been exposed to very high levels of asbestos in the air after it was disturbed, with much higher levels than the control limit.

The investigation carried out by the HSE after the incident revealed that Formac Electronics Ltd did not make a health survey for the demolishment and refurbishment, or to inquire the levels and condition of any asbestos present within the building. The investigation also found the failure of proper information given to contractors to establish the presence of any asbestos, or blue asbestos within the framework of the building.

Additionally, when a HSE specialist investigator inspected the scene, she noticed the presence of blue asbestos in the areas where the plaintiff had been working, which on the day had been for a significant while, on the 4th of August 2010.
The exposure to asbestos is medically connected to a large range of diseases and illnesses, which includes lung cancer and mesothelioma. This case is significant because blue asbestos is most highly linked to mesothelioma.

After the prosecution, Helena Tinton – the HSE investigator for the case – stated that asbestos is a significant cancer causing fibre, which is very prevalent in modern buildings with construction dates between 1950 and 1980. The building that was the focus of the investigation – Oxford House – was constructed in the 1960’s, and the firm involved should have known of the dangers potentially involved with asbestos, and should have carried out a sufficient risk assessment of the building in question, in the interests of the prevention of asbestos exposure to any workers.

She added that the damage to the plaintiff’s health and well being has been damaged because of the exposure to the fibres, and the damage could be very serious. Mr Arnold has to now live with the fact that his health may be compromised in the future.

The company Formac Electronics Ltd, based at Oxford House, Bath pleaded guilty to the violation of Regulation 10 of the Construction Regulations 2007, and had to pay out £600, alongside significant legal expenses of £6,013.

Asbestos is the primary cause of work related fatalities in the UK. Please visit www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos for more information. To help prevent exposure to asbestos, the Health and Safety Executive has encouraged the construction industry to reach 4,000 teaching hours in asbestos awareness.