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Contractors Exposed to Asbestos

A fertiliser manufacturing firm has been fined after around 50 workers were exposed to asbestos at its plant in Cheshire.

Asbestos was discovered during the refurbishment of a 50-metre-high industrial furnace (known as the Primary Reformer) at GrowHow UK Ltd's plant in January 2011. Contractors had been demolishing brickwork and insulation boards for two days, using hammers, chisels and crow bars, before a bricklayer raised concerns about the presence of asbestos and this was confirmed when material from the site was taken for analysis.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched an investigation, which found that the company had failed to carry out an appropriate asbestos survey before allowing the project to start, depsite the fact that the demolition work was likely to create large amounts of dust.

According to HSE, workers had been breaking up rubble, putting it into sacks and pouring it down a chute so that sacks could be reused, without knowing the dust they were creating may have contained asbestos fibres.

Once asbestos was discovered, the workers were ordered to leave the site and all of their protective clothing and equipment was bagged up and destroyed due to the risk of contamination.

GrowHow UK Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(3) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 and Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. It was fined £60,000 and orderd to pay £17,094 in prosecution costs.

HSE Inspector Daniel Longdon said: "Dozens of workers at GrowHow were exposed to potentially deadly fibres because the company didn't carry out a risk assessment to see if asbestos was present in the industrial furnace.

"They will will have to live with the uncertainty for the rest of their lives of not knowing whether they will develop lung cancer or other diseases such as mesothelioma, as a result.

"If GrowHow had arranged a proper survey ahead of the work starting then the asbestos would have been identified and a licensed contractor could have been brought in to remove it safely."

Source: Safety Express

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