Councils still not providing adequate RPE to staff handling asbestos

Concerns expressed about lack of asbestos equipment for Aberdeen council staff 

Unions and councillors have raised fears that Aberdeen council workers are still not yet benefitting from equipment to shield them from the risk of asbestos exposure, despite this being required by almost three-decade-old legislation.

Where does the law stand? 

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 require that employers supply suitable equipment to anyone whose health could be endangered by the lethal substance.

However, a report to a recent city council staff governance committee revealed that some employees do not have access to respiratory protective equipment (RPE), despite the last 18 months having seen a number of high-profile asbestos incidents in the locality.

Last summer, for instance, workers encountered the potentially fatal fibres at Bridge of Don Academy, and it took five days for an emergency response to be ordered.

Subsequent incidents, in November at Beachview Court and during the demolition of Kincorth Academy in August, indicate the very real potential dangers to Aberdeen council workers lacking access to such vital equipment.

The report stated that the local authority hoped to meet its goal of providing all of its employees with RPE access by the end of this year.

“Not getting on top of the situation” 

SNP councillor David Cameron said: “We are now 14 months on from Bridge of Don and we have had other incidents at Beachview and Kincorth.

“We are obviously not getting on top of the situation as much as we would like.”

Meanwhile, Liam Knox of the Unite union agreed that there was a “risk” to council workers as a result of the continuing lack of equipment. He urged the committee to closely monitor the situation.

He added: “We have seen various incidents lately and it is something that needs to be kept a close eye on.”

However, the committee was also told that there was a need for detailed asbestos surveys prior to work being undertaken by either the council or external contractors.

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Discovery of Asbestos at Liverpools India Buildings ‘Wont stop HMRC move’

HMRC are moving into the iconic India Buildings in Liverpool despite asbestos having been found at the Grad II listed landmark, according to both HMRC and he buildings owners.

The building was acquired by Legal and General for a record £125 million in 2018, currently been renovated so 3,500 tax workers can be rehomed by 2020.

However, the recent identification of asbestos in the Water Street building even led to one report suggesting that the entire relocation plan was under threat. This has been scotched, however, by both L&G and HMRC, which said that the proposed move was still on track.

An L&G spokesperson commented: “There has been some delay to the building works due to asbestos being uncovered. However this is being resolved and the building is not due to be delivered until next year. Therefore the deal is still progressing as planned.”

India Buildings was constructed between 1924 and 1932 as a speculative venture by shipping firm Blue Funnel Line, at the cost of £1.25 million – the equivalent of about £85 million today. The transaction that saw the site pass into new hands last year was a record for the sale of a single Liverpool office building.

In the wake of the news about asbestos being found in the building, it was revealed that contractor Styles & Wood had seen its deal to fit out the structure terminated, with a spokesperson for the company signalling that it intended to take legal action in response to what it considered a “wrongful” decision. Shelborn is now looking for a replacement contractor.

Can you be sure that your own premises are free of asbestos? 

Whatever the site that you are currently responsible for, it is crucial to be mindful about whether this extremely harmful substance could be present, not least given the scope for its necessary management and/or removal to delay any work you are looking to undertake.

With our complement of highly trusted and informed services here at Trident Asbestos Solutions ranging from management / refurbishment and demolition surveys, asbestos air testing to awareness training and re-inspections, Trident Asbestos Solutions can be your go-to asbestos consultancy.

Call 0191 549 4872 now for an in-depth discussion of your asbestos management or removal requirements, and to receive a competitive quotation for any of our specialised services.

Questions to be answered for local family who lost their beloved family member to an Asbestos related disease earlier this year

The devastated husband of a retired seamstress from Sunderland whose death was attributed to asbestos-related disease has appealed to her old colleagues to provide insight into how she could have come into contact with the lethal fibres.

Jean Davis died at the age of 81 at Sunderland Royal Infirmary in February, about 11 months after her diagnosis with mesothelioma, which is a cancer of the lung lining suffered by many of those to have inhaled asbestos.

Senior coroner for Sunderland, Derek Winter, recorded at an inquest a week after her death that she passed away due to industrial disease.

A search for answers for Jean’s loved ones

 Gordon Davis, who was married to Jean for nearly 60 years, instructed specialist industrial disease lawyers at the Newcastle office of Irwin Mitchell to look into her illness and determine whether she could have been prevented from coming into contact with the deadly substance.

It is as part of these investigations that the legal firm is asking any former workmate of Jean during the period between 1972 and 1989 when she worked as a seamstress at the site of County Luxdon Laundry Ltd on Wycliffe Road, Sunderland to get in touch.

Mr Davis’s legal representative, Emma Tordoff, said: “Just a couple of months on from her death, Jean’s family remain understandably devastated by their loss, and are desperate to understand how she came to develop mesothelioma.

“We are determined to ensure that Jean’s loved ones gain justice regarding her death. We would be hugely grateful to anyone who may be able to shed further light on the presence of asbestos at this site and the working conditions that Jean would have generally faced.”

What is already known about Jean’s workplace?

County Luxdon Laundry was later known as De Mille Cleaners. Jean worked within the company’s pressing area, which some witnesses have already told Irwin Mitchell was very hot due to the presence of irons and presses.

Furthermore, it has been suggested that asbestos lagging was present on pipework near where Jean worked.

Mr Davis, 83, commented: “Losing Jean has been incredibly difficult for me and the entire family. She was a very proud and secretive woman, so many of the family only ultimately learned of her illness around Christmas time, when her condition had deteriorated.

“While nothing will ever change what has happened, we all just want to know whether her illness could have been prevented and whether more should have been done to protect her. If anyone could help, it would be hugely appreciated.”

Through the vast range of asbestos-related services that we provide here at Trident Asbestos Solutions, including asbestos management surveys, demolition surveys, asbestos testing and the removal of asbestos, we can help to maximise your peace of mind with regard to the safety of your premises. Phone us now, on 03333 441555, for your competitive quotation.

 

Persistently high level of asbestos deaths a reminder that it is not a problem of the past

Despite the complete ban on asbestos in the UK in 1999, the tragedy of disease arising from contact with the lethal substance has not gone away. This much was demonstrated by the recent release of figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that showed 2,523 people died from mesothelioma in 2017, with this cancer of the lining of the organs almost exclusively caused by sufferers inhaling asbestos fibres.

While this figure is similar to the numbers to have been reported over the past half-decade, it means that mesothelioma deaths remain at historic highs. Indeed, rates of mesothelioma – which is nearly always fatal – almost doubled between 1995 and 2017.

There are thought to be comparable numbers of people dying from asbestos-related lung cancers; however, the difficulty in establishing a cause for lung cancer makes this harder to accurately measure. In the meantime, the HSE has predicted that annual numbers will remain at their current levels for the remainder of this decade before it expects to see a decline.

The importance of precautions for today’s workers re-emphasised 

Although the sustained high level of mesothelioma deaths over the last few years can be largely attributed to occupational asbestos exposure that occurred many decades ago before the dangers of the material became fully known, it remains present in hundreds of thousands of buildings.

Furthermore, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and charity Mesothelioma UK have warned tradespeople and others potentially likely to encounter the substance to take precautions.

Asbestos continues to be a particular problem in schools, for example, as shown by the recent story that the Department for Education (DfE) has referred nearly 700 schools to the HSE due to concerns that they were failing to safely manage asbestos in their buildings.

We can give you the complete suite of essential asbestos services

Are you seeking out highly trusted services related to the management and/or removal of asbestos, such as asbestos awareness training, asbestos management surveys or asbestos air monitoring?

Whatever your requirements may be, our team here at Trident Asbestos Solutions can provide highly informed and skilled services from our offices dotted around the UK. Call 03333 441555 today, and we will be delighted to give you the benefit of a competitive quotation.

Residents voice fears over ‘enormous amount’ of asbestos from Black Country school fire

Concerns have been expressed by residents of a Sandwell market town over the potential health implications of asbestos released into the air as a consequence of a blaze near their homes.

As reported by the Black Country Mail, a fire broke out on the night of Tuesday 12th March at the derelict Manor High School site in Friar Park Road, Wednesbury, forcing the attendance of about 50 firefighters from West Midlands Fire Service.

However, asbestos fragments are said to have drifted from the school during the fire, albeit away from instead of towards nearby properties.

“A tremendous amount of concern”

 The newspaper said that some local residents were worried for their safety and felt they had not been adequately informed about the incident.

One person living close to the fire was quoted as saying: “There is a tremendous amount of concern about the fire at the School on Friar Park Road. There is an enormous amount of asbestos in that building and the council need specialists in to act now.

“The heavy rain at the moment was a saving grace but we have gale force winds forecast for the next few days, which does not bear thinking about. The building needs containing in some way by specialists.”

Council bosses move to calm residents

 Chiefs at Sandwell Council have played down the concerns, however, reassuring those living near the fire that any asbestos fibres would have drifted away from their homes.

A council spokesman stated: “We have spoken to the fire service who have reassured us that any asbestos fibres from the material of the building would have been carried away from houses due to the wind direction.

“Long-term health effects resulting from being near fires where asbestos containing materials were present is very low. People were told to keep their windows closed as a precaution.

“There is no need to panic and there is no asbestos that requires cleaning up anywhere outside the school site.”

He added that the land had been fenced off and residents were advised against going onto the land for any reason while an investigation into the cause of the fire was still underway.

Our asbestos removal contractors are always available to answer to your needs

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Two thirds of Coventry schools found to contain asbestos

Any Coventry parent or school that has had to deal with the sensitive management and removal of asbestos from within its buildings is likely to be concerned by reports that the potentially lethal substance is present in two thirds of the city’s schools.

In total, 38 of the 57 schools for which Coventry City Council is responsible contain the fibres that can so often cause deadly disease when someone comes into contact with them.

“What is the level of threat to school children?”

The statistics were revealed due to a Freedom of Information request sent by the Local Democracy Reporting Service. They also showed that 13 of the affected schools contained crocidolite, which is the most notorious form of asbestos, given that it is capable of puncturing the lung lining.

Councillor Peter Male, shadow cabinet member for education, voiced his concern over the figures and called for the issue to be addressed in a full council briefing.

He commented: “I am surprised by the findings. A number of questions spring to mind. What is the level of threat to school children? Does the council have a clear plan to reduce the prevalence of asbestos in Coventry schools? If so, is this currently being implemented?

“I would also suggest that the council needs to offer reassurances to further groups, including parents, teaching staff and elected members, many of whom will be school governors and may well be unaware of the scale of the problem.

“To this end I will be requesting that elected members receive a full briefing from the Director of Education to ensure that the problem of asbestos is fully understood and that its potential threat to health is being taken seriously.”

Still a widespread problem in Coventry and UK schools

Despite asbestos having been banned in 1999, it remains present in many educational buildings today. However, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has said that when properly managed, asbestos only poses a “very low risk” to the health of those using affected school buildings.

While admitting that “some of our older schools do contain varying levels of asbestos”, a council spokesman said: “We carefully monitor all of our school buildings through our asbestos register and where asbestos does need to be removed or disturbed this is done carefully, under controlled conditions by specialist contractors.”

With one of our regional offices here at Trident Asbestos Solutions being in nearby Birmingham, we are happy to provide all manner of services to those in the West Midlands who wish to take advantage of our knowhow and experience in the management and removal of asbestos.

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Nine out of 10 NHS trusts ‘have hospitals containing asbestos’

About 90% of NHS trusts have said that asbestos is present in their hospital buildings, according to a BBC News report, in response to Freedom of Information requests sent to all 243 NHS trusts in Britain.

211 trusts responded to the BBC’s inquiry, of which 198 said they operated hospitals with the potentially lethal material inside. The use of asbestos in construction was banned in the 1980s and the material is considered safe if it is left undisturbed. However, building work can cause fibres to be released and inhaled, thereby putting human health at risk.

NHS Improvement said that experts are brought in to safely remove asbestos when construction work is undertaken in its hospitals, adding that strict regulations ensured the safe registration and containment of the material.

However, an MP has said there should be an audit to determine the extent of the problem of asbestos within NHS buildings.

Worries about the risks of disturbed or deteriorated asbestos

Chair of the All Parliamentary Group for Occupational Health and Safety, Jo Stevens MP, urged the government to undertake an audit to “ensure every trust knows the extent of asbestos on their premises and has a plan for dealing with it.”

She added: “If it’s there, it will at some point become dangerous if it’s disturbed or if it deteriorates, so I’d like to see long-term plans and long-term strategies in place for its removal from all buildings.

“I appreciate that you have to prioritise what you do and so that’s why there should be an audit of buildings so that the dangerous areas are dealt with first as a priority.”

 

The BBC also learned that the five-year period from January 2013 and December 2017 saw 352 claims made against health trusts by people who had developed asbestos-related diseases in NHS buildings.

The trusts said that approximately £6.8 million in payouts had been made in response to these claims. However, three legal firms told the BBC that they had won compensation claims amounting to more than £16.4 million during the same period.

Don’t overlook the importance of the most comprehensive asbestos management approach

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Concerns expressed over possible asbestos from demolished Bradford lodge

Calls have been made by Bradford residents to tackle a potential asbestos threat from a suddenly demolished historic lodge in the city.

As reported by the Telegraph & Argus, those living close to the largely levelled Wibsey Park Lodge have said they fear the site could be contaminated with the lethal substance. They include Gordon Peel, who lives opposite the park and recently attended a meeting of the Friends of Wibsey Park group, where concerns were raised about the building possibly containing asbestos.

He told the newspaper: “When I heard about the potential for asbestos in the building, I wanted to make sure that something would be done about it.”

“We don’t want dangerous particles to be released into the air”

 Mr Peel continued: “There was talk at the meeting about the asbestos now being buried under the rubble, and that there had been fires on the site to burn some wood.

“We don’t want dangerous particles to be released into the air. When they come to clear the bricks and rubble from the site, if there is any asbestos, it will end up being dug up again. It’s particularly worrying given the way the building has been demolished without the right paperwork in place.”

Also present at the meeting was Labour Wibsey councillor David Green, who has got in touch with the council about the asbestos fears. He said that the local authority had not been notified beforehand that the lodge would be demolished, which meant there wasn’t time for asbestos checks to be undertaken in advance.

He commented: “A number of people at the meeting expressed concerns that they believed they had seen asbestos being covered over and buried within the rubble.

“So I contacted the council’s environmental health department and have asked them to liaise with the Environment Agency so they can inspect the site and see whether asbestos isn’t being disposed of properly and take the appropriate action.”

Contact Trident Asbestos Solutions about your own asbestos removal needs

 A spokesman for Bradford Council said that while the building was not listed, demolition was not permitted without prior approval from the council. He added that the owner had been contacted about the matter and was attempting to remedy the planning-control breach by making a retrospective planning application.

The three-bedroom property was judged surplus to operational requirements by corporate trustees and sold at auction in September. Proceeds are set to be reinvested in the park.

Could your own premises benefit from the close attention, diligence and skill of our highly professional asbestos consulatnts to assist with asbestos removal? If so, you can receive a competitive quote from Trident Asbestos Solutions now, by calling 03333 441555.

Findings of government’s schools asbestos survey won’t be published until the spring

The Department for Education (DfE) has reopened its schools asbestos survey to responses until next February, with minister Nick Gibb admitting that almost a quarter of schools had not yet participated in its “asbestos management assurance process”.

It means the findings from the survey will not be published until the spring of 2019, giving rise to concerns that the arrival of the report could be too late to influence long-term expenditure plans.

An eagerly anticipated report

Many have been waiting with bated breath for the publication of the results of the survey, which originally closed at the end of May this year. The “asbestos management assurance process” asks schools to declare whether or not they are compliant with their legal duty to manage asbestos on their premises.

Gibb told MPs during education questions on the afternoon of Monday 12th November that while 77% of schools had already responded, “we expect all state-funded schools and academies to participate, so we have reopened the assurance process from today until February 2019, to give them a further opportunity to do so.”

He also revealed: “The results of the asbestos management assurance process will be published in the spring next year.”

Fears of knock-on effects for school asbestos funding

The extension of the survey has led to fears that the results won’t be released early enough to influence next year’s comprehensive spending review, which will determine the amount of money to be received by schools from 2020.

Labour MP and chair of the parliamentary public accounts committee, Meg Hillier, has repeatedly voiced concerns about the prevalence of schools-based asbestos.

On Monday, she urged ministers to make more funding available to address the issue, commenting: “The problem with publishing this long-awaited information in the spring is that this is likely to be too late to properly influence the spending review.

“Given that 85% of schools have asbestos and the risks are getting greater as those buildings age, will the minister make a serious commitment to providing the funding to schools to tackle that asbestos, otherwise there’s no real incentive for them to come up with a plan, given the pinch on their budgets?”

Gibb replied by referring to existing capital funding pots that schools could use for maintenance, including tackling asbestos in their buildings. He added that 68% of the 17,000 schools that had responded to the survey so far were found to be “assured by the appropriate responsible body”.

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Manchester landlord narrowly avoids prison after asbestos breaches

The owner of a commercial property in the Northern Quarter in Manchester has been handed a six-month jail sentence suspended for two years, in another indication of the potential consequences for those who fail to take measures to minimise the risk of asbestos exposure in their buildings.

A signal of the continued importance of safe asbestos removals

As reported by the Manchester Evening News, Whaid Ahmed was hauled before Manchester Magistrates’ Court after a routine Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspection at 1-3 Stevenson Square, where the eateries Slice Pizzeria and Chai Latte occupy the ground floor.

The developer was prosecuted in relation to health and safety breaches that occurred during refurbishment work at the property, which began more than five years ago.

The court heard that action was taken against him on the basis of his failure to check whether asbestos was present in the well-known building prior to the commencement of work in April 2012.

Large quantities of the potentially lethal substance were discovered in the building by an HSE inspector, some of it in very poor condition.

HSE said this indicated the possibility of previous asbestos removals without any controls in place from already-renovated areas of the building.

The body’s investigation found that Ahmed did not identify the risks involved in dealing with such potentially harmful fibres, and failed to implement appropriate measures to prevent workers coming into contact with it.

It added that with enforcement action having previously been taken against Ahmed in relation to a similar issue, he should have been “well aware of his duties under the law”.

What consequences did the offender face?

 Ahmed, of Hale Barns, Altrincham, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 5(a), 11(1)(a) and 16 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

His six-month prison sentence was suspended for two years, and he was also ordered by magistrates to complete 250 hours’ unpaid work and pay £5,742.14 in costs.

HSE inspector Matt Greenly commented after the hearing: “This case highlights the importance of surveying a property for asbestos to prevent risk to anyone occupying or working in that building and to reduce the risk of exposure to asbestos and contracting incurable diseases as a result of that exposure.”

If you are concerned about the dangers that the sometimes fatal material could pose to people using your own organisation’s premises, you can learn more about our widely trusted asbestos removals, surveying and other services by calling the Trident Asbestos Solutions team now, on 03333 441555.

We have offices across the UK – including in Edinburgh, Sunderland, Durham, Leeds, Birmingham and London – and the sooner you contact us, the sooner we can get back to you with a competitive quotation for any of our acclaimed and comprehensive services.

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