Jail sentence for director who ‘put profit before health’ for asbestos exposure

  • Disciplinary
Contractor hit with 18-month community order for illegally removing asbestos
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

A Winchester-based company and its two co-directors have been sentenced for failing to protect workers from asbestos exposure at a student development project.

Stephen Davies, 59, set up Cavendish Winchester Ltd to refurbish Winnall Close, a commercial unit in Winchester, into student rental accommodation. Neil Bolton, 56, was his co-director.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) were alerted to large quantities of asbestos insulating board (AIB) illegally removed from the site during the site’s refurbishment in 2019.

Investigating the matter, HSE found that the company had removed about ten tonnes of AIB between late 2019 and early 2020. These dangerous materials were stripped out by workers who were unqualified for the work and unaware of the health risks.

All this work, they learned, was all carried out under the direction of Stephen Davies. Southampton Crown Court were told both Mr Davies and Mr Bolton were aware of the large quantity of AIB in the building.

In fact, they knew of the duty to seek a Licenced Asbestos Removal Contractor to remove it, since they had sought quotes for this before the refurbishment works took place.

However, the HSE told the court, the directors weren’t prepared to spend the money for this. They avoided the safe and legal method and instead exposed workers to significant health risks by having them remove it instead.

HSE Principal Inspector Steve Hull explained:

“The defendants…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.”

Adding to this, the HSE could not determine where a very sizeable quantity of asbestos-contaminated debris ended up. This meant that others in the waste removal chain were likely also exposed to considerable risk.

Appearing at court, Stephen Davies, Neil Bolton and Cavendish Winchester Ltd all pleaded guilty to charges of inadequate management concerning the removal of asbestos-containing materials. Mr Davies and Mr 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.

Stephen Davies was given a custodial sentence of 8 months in prison. Neil Bolton received a custodial sentence of four months, suspended for 12 months. He was also handed 250 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay £5,123 of legal costs.

Their company, Cavendish Winchester Ltd, was fined £30,000.

HSE Principal Inspector Steve Hull spoke after the sentencing:

“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.”

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