The extraordinary risks that company employers are prepared to take which are known to seriously endanger the lives of their workforce simply to ‘save money’, ‘protect margins’ or ‘increase profits’ are of course well described throughout the history of asbestos use in the UK and still rage out of control in many developing nations around the world.

However, the scales of justice were recently tipped against an UK construction company who were fined for endangering their employees’ lives when choosing to ‘save money’ by undertaking to remove asbestos waste themselves rather than comply with the law and use licensed, asbestos removal contractors.

Opting to take the cheap, shortcut method instead by researching online to find out what precautions to take, lack of understanding, trained knowledge and experience led inevitably, to mistakenly following instructions for the removal of asbestos cement rather than friable – and more liable to release deadly fibres – asbestos insulation board (AIB).

Despite of the efforts of health and safety legislation, first enacted from the late 1960s through to The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006, which would be expected to also help raise asbestos awareness of the very real dangers of exposure and the necessity of specialist management and removal, employer priorities were once again lacking.

The continuing, steady stream of mesothelioma compensation or asbestosis claim cases which come to court reinforce the deliberate neglect of regulations compliance throughout many industries working with the material as late as the 1980s and 90s. As recently as 2009, over 800 new cases of asbestosis have been reported while deaths from mesothelioma exceeded 2,250 in 2008.

Ironically, the construction company had actually obtained estimates from specialist asbestos removal companies whose quotations matched the amount of fine the Magistrate imposed, plus a third more in legal costs , the maximum available and indicating a serious breach of the regulations had occurred.

The ‘General Requirements’ of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 include:

• Licensing of work with asbestos
• Notification of work with asbestos
• Information, instruction and training
• Arrangements to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies