Gas engineer prosecuted for unsafe asbestos removal

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has prosecuted a gas engineer from near Barnstaple in Devon for putting himself and others at risk from exposure to fibres from asbestos.

Brian Hockin was replacing a boiler at a residential property when he exposed an area of asbestos insulation board. The tenants raised their concerns to Mr Hockin but an investigation found that he continued bagging up and removing the hazardous material in an unsafe manner.

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Mr Hockin was reported to the HSE and prosecuted at Barnstaple Magistrates’ Court. This followed an investigation, which found that Mr Hockin failed in his duty to prevent the spread of asbestos fibres, used no protective clothing nor any dedicated breathing apparatus.

Mr Hockin pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The gas engineer was then charged £450 and told to pay court costs of £921.40.

Commenting on the trial’s conclusion, HSE Inspector Simon Jones said: “Brian Hockin’s negligence could result in serious health effects to both him and anyone else who may have come into contact with the asbestos material that he disturbed.

“Given Mr Hockin’s vast experience as a gas engineer he should have realised that there is a very good chance that a 30 year old gas boiler could be insulated with asbestos insulation board but he made no checks before working around the material.

“He then compounded matters by ignoring concerns raised the tenants that the material that he had disturbed was asbestos and carried on removing the material.

“Tradesmen should always be aware that asbestos can be found in any industrial or residential building built or refurbished before the year 2000.

“Tradesmen should make enquiries as the presence of asbestos before starting work and if they suspect that they have come across asbestos during work they should stop work immediately and confirm what the material is and arrange for it to be dealt with by properly trained asbestos removers in a safe manner.”