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Sat April 13 2024

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Director jailed for asbestos breaches

28 Mar A company director has been jailed for eight months after failing to protect workers from exposure to asbestos at a student development project in Winchester.

Stephen Davies, 59, had set up Cavendish Winchester Ltd with the sole purpose of refurbishing the Winnall Close commercial unit into student rental accommodation.

His co-director Neil Bolton, 56, was spared jail time when he was handed a four-month suspended sentence at Southampton Crown Court on 27th March 2024.

The company itself was fined £30,000 – with all three defendants pleading guilty.

An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) discovered that the company removed an estimated ten tonnes of asbestos insulating board (AIB) during the refurbishment in late 2019 and early 2020. The dangerous materials were stripped out by workers unqualified to do the job and unaware of the risks to their health.

The investigation was triggered by a report to HSE that large quantities of AIB had been illegally removed. The work was all carried out under the direction of Stephen Davies.

The court was told that both directors were aware of the extent and quantity of the materials containing asbestos within the building, as they had previously sought legitimate quotes for its removal by licensed contractors. However, they chose to save money and knowingly exposed workers to risk to their health.

The investigation was unable to determine where much of the asbestos-contaminated debris ended up, so others in the waste removal chain are likely to have been put at risk as well.

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All three defendants pleaded guilty to charges relating to a lack of adequate management of the removal of asbestos containing materials.

Both Stephen Davies and Neil Bolton pleaded guilty to Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, by causing their company, The Cavendish Winchester Ltd, to breach Section 4(1) of the Act.  Davies, of Petworth, West Sussex was given an immediate custodial sentence of eight months in prison. Bolton, of Petworth, West Sussex was given a custodial sentence of four months, suspended for 12 month, with 250 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay costs of over £5,123.

The Cavendish Winchester Ltd, of Newtown House, Liphook, was fined £30,000.

HSE principal inspector Steve Hull said after the hearing: “We brought this case because, 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 licenced asbestos removal contractors who have the knowledge and equipment to prevent the spread of fibres and properly protect the workers undertaking the removal work.

“This work involved the removal of an estimated 10 tonnes of AIB. The defendants then tried to cover their tracks by legitimising the removal of a small amount of residual asbestos containing materials, after illegally stripping out the majority, by obtaining a new quote for legal removal of that very small remaining portion. This deliberate attempt to save money, when they knew full well that the workers would have to live with the possibility of developing serious asbestos-related disease in the future, makes the case particularly serious.”

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