Asbestos-containing materials found in lounge aboard ship… Two companies in the North-East of the UK have been fined after both failed to prevent their employees from being exposed to asbestos fibres while they worked on refurbishments on a cruise ship.
The HSE decided to prosecute the two companies after their investigation revealed that two self-employed workers had been contracted to remove ceiling panels on a lounge aboard the ship without having conducted an asbestos survey before they commenced the work.
Teeside Magistrates’ Courts heard that the tour company and the shipping company had arranged for the removal work to be carried out, ironically enough for health and safety reasons. Their intention was to reduce the amount of combustible material on the ship
While the ship was docked in Middlesbrough in December 2009, the two contracted labourers began the process of removing ceiling and wall panels from one of the lounges on the ship. During the second day of this work they were ordered to stop amid concerns that there was asbestos behind the ceiling panels in the lounge. Tests were carried out and it confirmed that asbestos fibres were indeed present in the working environment.
It was also revealed that an asbestos survey had been carried out in 2008 which identified the asbestos threat in another part of the ship and should have alerted management of the need for asbestos awareness throughout the ship especially during refurbishment work.
Both the leisure company and the shipping company pleaded guilty to breaches of asbestos regulations and they were fined £6000 and £12,000 respectively plus costs.
HSE Inspector Victoria Wise spoke after the case:
“The two companies both failed to ensure that a suitable and sufficient assessment was made of the risk created by the presence of asbestos and therefore did not take the steps required in order to comply with the regulations.
“As a result the two men inadvertently disturbed the asbestos and spread the fibres. In doing so they were potentially exposed to a substance that is known to cause diseases such as lung cancer and mesothelioma.
“This incident was entirely preventable and should act as a reminder to other ships owners and management firms.”
The HSE report that asbestos-related diseases cause around 4,000 deaths a year. They further state that working on or near damaged asbestos-containing materials without adequate precautions or breathing in high levels of asbestos fibres significantly increases the risk of getting an asbestos-related disease.