Director jailed after illegal asbestos strip-out

A 59-year-old man has been jailed for eight months after overseeing the illegal removal of 10 tonnes of asbestos-containing material from a building during a student accommodation project in Hampshire.

Cavendish Winchester director Stephen Davies was handed the prison sentence at Southampton Crown Court following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

His co-director Neil Bolton, 56, was given a four-month suspended sentence while the Liphook-based company was fined £30,000.

The court heard that Cavendish Winchester was a single-purpose vehicle set up to refurbish a commercial unit on Winnall Close into student homes.

The directors, both of Petworth in West Sussex, sought quotes for safe and compliant removal of asbestos insulating board (AIB) but, according to the HSE, chose to save “a considerable sum of money” by instead using “unqualified” workers who were “unaware of the risks to their health”.

“They knowingly exposed workers to significant risk to their health,” said the watchdog.

“In addition, the investigation was unable to determine where a very sizeable quantity of asbestos-contaminated debris ended up, such that others in the waste removal chain were likely to have been put at risk too.”

All three defendants pleaded guilty to charges under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 relating to a lack of adequate management of the removal of asbestos-containing materials.

HSE principal inspector Steve Hull said: “Despite the directors of this company being put on notice of the risks involved, they put profit before the health of those they employed.

“The dangers to health associated with exposure to asbestos fibres are well known and a wealth of advice and guidance is freely available from HSE and other organisations.

“Structural refurbishment which either exposes or is liable to expose people to asbestos fibres should only be carried out by competent persons working to a strict plan of work to ensure safety.

“Higher-risk asbestos removal, such as the removal of AIB, can only legally be carried out by licensed asbestos-removal contractors who have the knowledge and equipment to prevent the spread of fibres and properly protect the workers undertaking the removal work.”

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