Gas storage firm fined for ‘needless’ asbestos risks

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SSE Hornsea Ltd, operators of a natural gas storage facility near Atwick on the East Yorkshire coast, has been £300,000 after 13 workers were exposed to asbestos fibres.

Beverley Magistrates’ Court heard on 17 January how an employee became suspicious after fibrous dust was emitted during work to remove a non-return valve from a compressed air distribution system.

In the task, three employees had used a wire brush mounted on an electric drill to remove sealing gasket material. The activity spread fibres from the gasket around the maintenance workshop onto floors, work benches and clothing.

The worker arranged for dust to be tested and fibre was found to contain chrysotile (white) asbestos fibres.

HSE, prosecuting, told the court that the company had failed to identify in the risk assessment that asbestos gaskets were attached to the non-return valve. Records of asbestos on site were also inadequate.

Investigating HSE inspector, Paul Miller said: “In this case SSE Hornsea Ltd substantially failed to manage the risks associated with asbestos found within their process plant and have needlessly risked the future health of 13 people.

“Employers should ensure that they have in place adequate arrangements for both the identification and management of asbestos which may be found in buildings or process plant.”

Breathing in asbestos fibres, which have been widely used in building and engineering materials, can be fatal, he stressed, causing serious diseases including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. “These diseases do not have an immediate effect, they often take a long time to develop, but once diagnosed, it is often too late to do anything,” added Miller.

SSE Hornsea Ltd of Inveralmond House, Perth pleaded guilty to breaching sections 2 (1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and paid costs of £1,731 plus the fine.


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