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Unlicensed Asbestos Removal – The Human Cost of Bad Practice

November 28, 2018

Unlicensed Asbestos Removal – The Human Cost of Bad Practice

Fines for rogue traders offering unsafe and unlicensed assessment, removal and disposal services are nothing new.

If you scan through any construction periodical or equivalent website chances are you’ll not have to look far to find a story about a company or individual that has taken the opportunity to bypass regulations only to be caught out and delivered a sizable fine.

November has been no different with a £90,000 fine being doled out by Norwich Magistrates’ Court after an investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) discovered that a refurbishment project involving unlicensed asbestos removal resulted in significant exposure to labourers through a range of illegal practices.

The report by the HSE concluded that not only had no asbestos survey been carried out before the commencement of the project by the contractor but also that when asbestos debris was discovered, it was cleaned by sweeping and vacuuming the area putting labourers at significant risk.

What makes this case particularly notable is that the labourers the contractor employed to carry out demolition works were mostly foreign nationals resulting in a limited understanding of English, little awareness of asbestos on site and no previous asbestos awareness training.

The increase in EU-migrant labour in the construction industry is well documented, and in the UK, the sector employs around 3 million people, making up 10% of all UK employment. On average, 8% of the industry are EU workers, with an area like London having a level of up to 28%. Of this percentage, Non-UK workers in the UK construction industry are mostly employed as general labourers with 22% falling into this category.

Construction professionals are reported to believe that hiring non-UK workers is critical to the success of their businesses. Estimates claim, to meet current demand, that more than 36,000 new workers a year will be are required in the sector with non-UK workers filling significant areas of skill shortage.

The language barrier and lack of training to consistent regulation increase the opportunity for unlicensed operations to take advantage of foreign workers to carry out unauthorised work akin to the situation raised in Norwich and undoubtedly is an opportunity for unscrupulous operators will cease upon when selecting workers hazardous materials. This conviction and the subsequent financial penalty act as a is a timely reminder to those instruction contractors to carry out any works involving asbestos assessment, removal or disposal to check that operator you are instructing carries the necessary certification to comply with all relevant regulations. If they don’t, you may find that not only are they putting their, and your reputation at risk but also potentially the health of unsuspecting workers who have no idea that they are coming into contact with asbestos.

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