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  • Writer's pictureRichard Nichols

Builders' Merchant Faces Significant Court Fine for Asbestos Negligence

Danger Asbestos

A major national builders' merchant, Jewson, with around 600 UK outlets, was fined £400,000 for unsafe asbestos management in their Middlesbrough branch, posing potential risks to lives. This article highlights the significance of proper asbestos management and handling, emphasizing the severe consequences that may arise from failure to do so. It emphasizes the importance of correct asbestos handling due to the health risks in which it presents.

Environmental Health Officers from Middlesbrough Council visited Jewson in Brewsdale Road, North Ormesby in October 2019 due to concerns about damaged asbestos-containing materials. During the inspection, they discovered damaged materials and released asbestos fibers. Investigations revealed that between 2004 and 2019, despite multiple surveys, there was a significant failure to properly manage asbestos at the site. The company that owns the premises, Stark Building Materials UK Ltd (formerly known as Saint-Gobain Distribution Ltd trading as Jewson), was aware of the asbestos risks but took no action to prevent or reduce exposure and spread of asbestos from the premises.

Judith Hedgley, Middlesbrough Council’s Head of Public Protection, said: “Asbestos has been used extensively in many thousands of products, particularly in the construction industry. However, the health risks associated with asbestos have been known about for many years and asbestos has not been used in products since 1999. Due to the clear and well-established health risks, employers and owners of workplaces are required under health and safety laws to conduct surveys of their premises to identify, label, remove or effectively manage asbestos. If asbestos-containing materials become damaged they can release tiny fibres, which if breathed in or swallowed can lead to serious and potentially fatal illnesses, which can take years to develop".

Asbestos Restricted Area

The management of the Jewson site in Middlesbrough had, over a prolonged period, failed in their responsibility to protect their workers and visitors from the risks associated with exposure to asbestos.

Although the company that employed workers on the site, Jewson Ltd, no longer trades, legal responsibility remained with site owner Stark Building Materials UK Ltd. They admitted responsibility for not ensuring the safety of workers, visitors, and contractors by failing to manage asbestos effectively. At Teesside Crown Court, Stark Building Materials UK Ltd was also fined £9,664 in council costs.

The large fine sustained by the builders merchant emphasises the importance of having the correct knowledge to keep safe when working with, or around, asbestos. Middlesbrough Mayor Chris Cooke, the Council’s Executive member for Public Protection, said: “Asbestos has been a health concern for many years and kills around 5,000 workers each year from past exposure. The very substantial fine imposed on Stark Building Materials UK Ltd sends out a clear message to employers and building owners that they must identify where asbestos is in their premises and put measures in place to manage it so that no one’s health is put at risk.”

In conclusion, the article above outlines the critical significance of safely managing asbestos and highlights the potential consequences of mishandling this hazardous substance. At Base Solutions, we provide convenient online courses designed to keep individuals updated on health and safety standards. Our comprehensive Asbestos Awareness course equips workers with the knowledge to identify asbestos-containing materials, understand its usage, take proactive measures to mitigate risks, and navigate relevant legislation. For further details, please reach out to our team or click the button below.


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