Akram Hussain, 52, and Inam Hussain, 47, were refurbishing a former print works on Scotia Road, Burslem. At least seven workers are known to have been exposed to asbestos on the project since February 2012, with one of them aged just 17 at the time.
Akram Hussain is a snooker hall manager and Inam Hussain a taxi driver, although they have been carrying out the work on the building for around 10 years.
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the brothers after an investigation found that work was being carried out without the necessary asbestos surveys and without a construction, design and management (CDM) co-ordinator in place, which is required if work is to take more than 30 days.
Despite repeated visits from HSE inspectors and numerous enforcement notices warning them of their failings, the brothers continued to refurbish the building and disturb asbestos material, putting workers at risk.
A prohibition notice was issued on 17th February 2012 stopping all asbestos-related work. A ‘direction to leave undisturbed’ was also issued for the building until HSE had provided written confirmation that work could continue.
However, several lorry-loads of waste contaminated with asbestos were removed from the site and taken to an unlicensed waste disposal site in Stoke-on-Trent. Workers were also witnessed leaving the site covered in dust and not wearing appropriate protective clothing.
A separate prohibition notice was also served on Inam Hussain on 18th May 2012 for the non-licensed removal of the asbestos from the building. An improvement notice was served at the same time for the ongoing failure to appoint a CDM co-ordinator.
The court heard that the HSE knows of at least seven workers being exposed to asbestos in the building. Many more could have been exposed during the course of the refurbishment project over the years.
Akram Hussain and Inam Hussain both pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Akram Hussain was given a custodial sentence of 22 months and ordered to pay costs of £43,000. Inam Hussain was given a custodial sentence of 14 months.
HSE inspector Lindsay Hope said after the hearing: “The Hussains have shown a willful disregard for the health and safety of workers and others. Our investigation uncovered a catalogue of serious errors, safety failings and a disregard of the laws around the safe and correct removal of asbestos.
“This was an appalling case of failing to properly plan, manage and resource this project, which led to workers being exposed to risks to their health from asbestos.
“It is essential at the outset of a building refurbishment to first seek specialist advice regarding the possible presence of asbestos within that building. Only with the full knowledge of what is present, or not, can any asbestos then be dealt with safely.
“Failure to identify and deal with any asbestos can lead to it being damaged and people then breathing in the fibres. The Hussains failed in their duty by choosing to ignore the dangers of this hidden killer.”