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Cladding boss exposed workers to asbestos

The owner of a cladding installation business has been fined after he exposed workers to a potentially fatal risk from airborne asbestos fibres at a house in Bedfordshire.

Michael Southern, owner of PMF Cladding, instructed an employee and a casual labourer to remove and replace soffit boards during refurbishment work at a property in Sharnbrook in August 2011.

A neighbour informed Southern that the soffits were made of asbestos insulating board but that did not stop him allowing work to carry on.

After a complaint was made to the HSE an inspector visited the site and immediately halted further work.

Inspectors found that Southern was aware from some of his previous jobs that soffit boards may contain asbestos but had not taken this into account when assessing this job.

He had also failed to provide information and training to workers who could be exposed to asbestos fibres.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Gavin Bull, said:  "Mr Southern, as a person running a cladding installation business, should have been in no doubt about the dangers posed by asbestos and of the regulations governing work with this material.

"Despite this, he progressed this work without testing the material to be removed for the presence of asbestos.

"This resulted in those working there being exposed to risk of inhaling airborne asbestos fibres without taking any suitable precautions.

"This incident was entirely preventable and highlights the importance of having a robust asbestos management system in place. "

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