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Asbestos exposure for employees and contractors leads to substantial fine

22 January 2018

Beverley Magistrates' Court handed a fine of £300,000 to SSE Hornsea after 13 employees and maintenance contractors were exposed to white asbestos fibres.

Three mechanical maintenance engineers had been involved in the removal of a non-return valve from a compressed air distribution system at the natural gas storage facility on the East Yorkshire cost when the incident occurred.

When sealing gasket material proved difficult to remove, a wire brush attachment was used on an electrical drill was used.

This resulted in fibres being spread around the maintenance workshop, where it came to rest on floors, work benches and clothing.

Another employee of the company became suspicious of the dust and reported his concerns, after which the dust was tested and found to contain the chrysotile fibres and the workshop was then closed.

During the company's prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the court was told that it had failed to identify that the gaskets contained asbestos.

Records held on site were not adequate and the maintenance team leader had not undertaken asbestos awareness training, said the HSE.

Plant room equipment has been shown to be one of the main areas where asbestos can be present in a number of different forms, including within boilers, cladding and insulation material, in addition to other components such as gaskets.

After pleading guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health & Safety at Work, etc, Act 1974, SSE Hornsea of Inveralmond House, Dunkeld Road, Perth received the £300,000 fine with costs of £1,731.

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