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At Thompsons we regularly advise and act for clients in civil compensation claims who have been diagnosed with an asbestos condition as a result of being exposed to asbestos during their working life many years ago. However recently, criminal proceedings have been brought against a builder in England who exposed his employees to asbestos.

Kieran Lynch, trading as Lynch & Co, was a builder who exposed his employees to asbestos during a refurbishment of domestic premises in Reading. Lynch & Co was contracted to carry out a large scale refurbishment. Prior to the work commencing the owner of the property being refurbished informed Mr Lynch that there was asbestos on the ceiling boards in the garage. Despite this he proceeded to ask two of his employees to remove the boards. He failed to provide them with any training on asbestos removal nor did he provide them with protective equipment. The boards were then stored inside the house for three months before they were removed to the garden and thereafter disposed of. It was then discovered that these boards were Asbestos Insulating Boards which is a dangerous material that require an asbestos license to remove.

The Health and Safety Executive carried out an investigation and discovered that Mr Lynch knew there was asbestos in the property. Furthermore, they found that prior to letting his employees remove it, he failed to make any investigations into where the asbestos was or the type and condition it was in. He also let them remove it with no control measures in place.

As a result of his actions Mr Lynch pled guilty to breaching the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, regulations 5 (1) (a), 8(1) and 11(1). These regulations state:

  • Regulation 5(1)(a)- an employer must not undertake work which exposes an employee to asbestos unless the employer has carried out an assessment as to whether asbestos is present, what type of asbestos is present and what condition it is in.
  • Regulation 8(1)- an employer must hold a licence before undertaking any licensable work with asbestos.
  • Regulation 11(1)- every employer must prevent the exposure of asbestos to any employee so far as is reasonably practicable; where it is not reasonably practicable to prevent such exposure they must take the necessary steps to reduce the exposure to the lowest level practicable by means other than respiratory protective equipment and ensure the number of employees exposed at one time is as low as is reasonably practicable.

As a result of Mr Lynch breaching the above noted regulations, he received a community order for a period of 12 months with a Rehabilitation Requirement of 25 days and Unpaid Work of 100 hours. He was also ordered to pay £5,000 costs and a £95 victim surcharge.

The criminal prosecution of Mr Lynch is a warning sign to employers that they must take adequate steps to find out if asbestos is present in locations where work is being undertaken by their employees. Furthermore, they must ensure appropriate measures are taken to prevent people being exposed to asbestos fibres. If they fail to do so they may face criminal prosecution like Mr Lynch did.

Thompsons still continue to act for those who have been exposed to asbestos dust in the past and have now been diagnosed with an asbestos condition, to pursue claims in the civil courts in Scotland. It is hoped that Scottish employers will pay attention to this English criminal courts’ decision and take appropriate measures before exposing their employees to asbestos.

If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos condition please contact our Lung Disease team.

Blog by Jennifer Lilly, Trainee Solicitor

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