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The motor manufacturer General Motors UK Ltd has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive after contactors were exposed to dangerous asbestos fibres while carrying out works on one of the company’s buildings in Ellesmere Port.

An investigation by the HSE found that during the redevelopment of their paint unit, suspected asbestos insulating boards were discovered beneath external cladding on the stores building. Contractors carrying out the refurbishment had submitted a risk assessment and method statement for the work that was originally due to traverse a roof. When the location of the new pipe-work was changed to the side of the building, no review of the risk assessment for the job – specifically in relation to asbestos – was undertaken. Subsequent sampling confirmed the presence of asbestos.

On the day the suspected boards were discovered the asbestos register was not fully available to the contractor to allow them to check whether the boards contained asbestos. No direct instruction was given by General Motors to the contractor to stop the work to prevent any AIB being disturbed. The work, including the removal and cutting of holes in AIB board, continued without suitable precautions.

Liverpool Magistrates’ Court heard no assessment of the risk was undertaken by General Motors to determine if the work was notifiable or licensed asbestos work. On completion of the work licensed contractors were employed to conduct a clean-up and decontamination program of the roof and in the stores.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Jane Carroll said: “Asbestos kills around 5,000 workers each year; this is more than the number killed on UK roads. Asbestos can be present within any premises built or refurbished before the year 2000. Whenever asbestos-containing materials are found to be present, companies have a legal duty to document and implement an Asbestos Management Plan which includes measures to adequately control the risk of exposure to asbestos fibres.”

Asbestos is dangerous because of the tiny fibres that it contains, which can enter and remain in the lungs causing a variety of diseases and issues including lung cancer, pleural thickening and asbestosis. If you or someone you know has been exposed to asbestos as part of their employment it’s quite likely that you will be entitled to make a claim for compensation. Our solicitors are highly experienced in this area of the law and will swiftly be able to tell you if you have a claim, and if so how much that claim could be worth. Contact us today to find out how much you could be entitled to.