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Manufacturing company fined after workers exposed to asbestos

Power Link Machines (UK) Ltd was sentenced for safety breaches after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was informed the company was using gaskets within its generator sets that contained asbestos.

Prohibition Notice

The company was served with a Prohibition Notice on 26 March 2018 requiring them to stop the use of these gaskets and ensure that they did not import any asbestos containing items.

Leeds Magistrates’ Court heard that a second concern was received on 21 September 2018 stating that employees were being asked to work on a generator set, which contained gaskets which looked very similar to those found to contain asbestos earlier in the year.

Untrained Employees

An investigation by HSE found that the gaskets also contained asbestos and as the generator set had been imported into this country, the company had breached the Prohibition Notice served in March 2018. The company subsequently allowed an untrained employee to remove these gaskets releasing asbestos fibres into the generator set; and then by asking two other employees to work within that generator set, also exposed them to asbestos fibres.

Breach of Health & Safety at Work Act

Power Link Machines (UK) Ltd, based in Sherburn in Elmet, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and breaching Regulation 9 (1) and Schedule 6, part 2, section 2 of the REACH enforcement regulations 2008. The company was fined £22,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,062.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Rachel Brittain said: “When materials that contain asbestos are disturbed or damaged, fibres are released into the air. When these fibres are inhaled, they can cause serious diseases.

“Had the company put robust checks in place to ensure that they were not importing asbestos containing materials, this incident would not have occurred.”

Health & Safety Learning Points
  • This case is a warning to all companies who use equipment and have it imported. Look into how it is made and what materials are used
  • This case also highlights how the HSE will go back to previous notices served and use them as part of the new case.
  • Any building pre year 2000 needs to have an asbestos check completed by a competent company.
  • There should be risk assessments in place to safeguard such issues.
  • Implement a PPM schedule – Planned Preventative Maintenance
  • All defects or maintenance issues should be reported to the Company Owner or Site Safety Manager and followed up.
  • Managers should also be checking and sampling areas to see if they could have asbestos .
  • Employers and Owners should also consider looking at HSE guidance https://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/
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