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Property Management Company admits asbestos failings

10 January 2022

THE HEALTH and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) has successfully led a prosecution against Coleraine based property management company, Oriental Developments Limited.

The company was fined for health and safety failings relating to the removal of asbestos during refurbishment work at an industrial unit in Ballybrakes Business Park, Ballymoney.

Oriental Developments Limited pleaded guilty to three separate health and safety offences at Antrim Crown Court and was fined £15,000.

The HSENI investigation followed a complaint of unsafe work practices, alleging worker exposure to asbestos during construction work at the Ballymoney industrial unit in October 2018. The investigation found that refurbishment of the unit had commenced before any assessment was made as to the presence of asbestos in the building. A prohibition notice was subsequently served by an HSENI Inspector, prohibiting any further work from continuing.

Following the analysis of samples taken by HSENI Inspectors, asbestos containing materials were confirmed to be present throughout the unit. None of the tradespersons that were working on site had been advised that asbestos containing materials were present before construction work commenced.

Of significance, the investigation also found that previous enforcement action had been taken by HSENI Inspectors against Oriental Developments Limited in respect of assessing and managing asbestos at the same location.

Speaking after sentencing, HSENI Inspector Julian Richmond said, “Employers have a legal duty to manage any work involving asbestos, including maintenance, which may result in harmful asbestos fibres being released and worker health being put at risk.

"In this case, the company failed to plan how the work would be carried out safely, to minimise the risk of spread of asbestos fragments and fibres. These risks could easily have been avoided by acting on the findings of the asbestos survey and carrying out correct control measures and safe working practices”

Northern Ireland statistics show that in 2019, asbestos related disease accounted for some 63 deaths where asbestosis or mesothelioma were recorded as the primary or secondary cause of death. Preventing exposure to asbestos is essential to reduce the incidence of asbestos related disease in the future.

Further information on the legal requirements of working with asbestos containing materials can be found on HSENI’s website, including information on an ongoing campaign ‘Always Ask for the Asbestos Register’