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Workers exposed to asbestos fibres at college

An asbestos  expert has been fined after workers under his supervision were exposed to  potentially-deadly fibres at a college in Greater Manchester.

Steven  Kelly was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after three men  were spotted without suitable protective clothing in an area of Trafford College  in Stretford where asbestos was being removed.

Trafford  Magistrates’ Court in Sale  heard today (11 October 2013) that Manchester-based firm Winsulate had been  hired to carry out asbestos removal work during a refurbishment project at the  college. Mr Kelly, 41,  from Kirkby in Merseyside, was the supervisor on the project but he ignored the  company’s procedures on working with asbestos, and broke the law as a result. The court  was told HSE inspectors carried out an unannounced visit to the college, on Talbot Road, during  the evening on 12 December 2012. They witnessed three workers in the area of  the college where asbestos was being removed but without suitable protective  clothing or masks. The  inspectors discovered Mr Kelly had sent the men into the undercroft beneath the  classrooms, which had been sealed off from the rest of the building, to fix the  temporary lighting. They were wearing their own clothes instead of disposable  clothing under their overalls, and half masks instead of full-face respiratory masks.

The men were also wearing lace-up instead of wellington boots, which meant asbestos fibres could stick to their laces or get inside their boots.

This led to them being put at risk of breathing in asbestos fibres, and other fibres could have remained on their clothes when they went home to their families in the evening.

Mr Kelly is a fully-trained and qualified supervisor in licensed asbestos removal but, despite this, several other issues were also discovered on the site.

These included insufficient water for workers to properly sponge down boots and masks to stop fibres becoming airborne, used clothing discarded inside the enclosure, and a failure to carry out daily checks on masks.

Mr Kelly, of Burwell Close in Kirkby, was fined £790 and ordered to pay costs of £250 after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974  by failing to take reasonable care of workers under his supervision.

Speaking  after the hearing, HSE Inspector Laura Moran said: “Asbestos is responsible for thousands of deaths in the UK every year but it only becomes dangerous when it is broken up and fibres are released into the air.

“That’s why asbestos can only be removed by specialist contractors but,  as the site supervisor, Steven Kelly put workers at risk by not following the  correct safety procedures.

“He simply should never have allowed three men to go into a contaminated  area while wearing their own clothes, and without the correct protective  clothing and respiratory masks.

“Workers, their families and anyone else who came into contact with them  would have been put at risk as a result of Mr Kelly allowing the men to wear  lace-up boots and the clothes they intended to go home in.

“Thankfully, we were able to stop the work and make sure the clothes  were disposed of as contaminated waste.”

Around 4,000 people die every year  as a result of breathing in asbestos fibres, making it the biggest single cause  of work-related deaths in the UK.  Airborne fibres can become lodged in the lungs or digestive tract, and can lead  to lung cancer or other diseases, but symptoms may not appear for several  decades.

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