It was reported on the Health & Safety Website that a tour operator and a ship management firm have been fined after workers were exposed to asbestos fibres during refurbishment work on board a cruise ship.
Teesside Magistrates’ Court heard on 23rd July 2012 that All Leisure Holidays Ltd and Andrew Weir Shipping Ltd had arranged for the work to be carried out on the Hebridean Princess to reduce the amount of combustible material on the ship.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the companies after an investigation found that two self-employed labourers had been hired to remove ceiling panels and wooden fixings in the Tiree lounge without carrying out the required asbestos survey.

The court was told the Hebridean Princess, built in 1964, had a refit and was bought in April 2009 by All Leisure Holidays Ltd who engaged Andrew Weir Shipping Ltd to manage the vessel.

On 1 December 2009, the ship was docked in Middlesbrough and two labourers from Nottingham were instructed by Andrew Weir Shipping Ltd to begin removing the ceiling and wall panels in the Tiree Lounge.
On the second day, they were told to stop work by the shipyard over concerns that there was asbestos behind the ceiling panels. Tests confirmed that asbestos fibres were present in the ceiling and also in the debris the workers had left in the lounge the previous day.

HSE found that Andrew Weir Shipping Ltd held an asbestos survey carried out in 2008 for the previous owners which identified asbestos behind some ceiling panels in another part of the ship. The court heard that this should have alerted them to the potential for asbestos to be present elsewhere.

All Leisure Holidays Ltd was given a copy of the 2008 survey when they purchased the ship but failed to identify that it was incomplete and was insufficient to allow the work to be carried out.

All Leisure Holidays Ltd, of Lynnern House, Victoria Way, Burgess Hill, West Sussex, was fined a total of £6,000 and ordered to pay £5,640.85 costs after it pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 5 and Regulation 11(1)(b) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.

Andrew Weir Shipping Ltd, of Atholl Crescent, Edinburgh, was fined a total of £12,000 and ordered to pay £5,829.15 costs after it pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 5, Regulation 11(1)(b) and Regulation 16 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.

After the case, HSE Inspector Victoria Wise, said:

“All Leisure Holidays Ltd and Andrew Weir Shipping Ltd 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.”

Asbestos-related diseases are responsible for around 4,000 deaths a year. Working on or near damaged asbestos-containing materials without adequate precautions or breathing in high levels of asbestos fibres could increase your chances of getting an asbestos-related disease.