Jail for director who exposed workers to asbestos

Director jailed asbestos - A yellow sign that reads 'danger asbestos'
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A company director has been jailed for eight months after failing to protect workers from asbestos exposure at a development project in Winchester.

Stephen Davies, 59, had set up The Cavendish Winchester Ltd with the sole purpose of refurbishing the Winnall Close commercial unit into student rental accommodation.

His co-director, Neil Bolton, 56, was spared an immediate jail term and was handed a four-month suspended sentence at Southampton Crown Court on 27 March 2024.

The company was fined £30,000.

Ten tonnes of asbestos removal

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company removed an estimated 10 tonnes of asbestos insulating board (AIB) during the refurbishment in late 2019 and early 2020. The dangerous materials were stripped out by workers unqualified to do the job and unaware of the risks to their health.

The investigation started when HSE received a concern that large quantities of AIB had been illegally removed. All work was carried out under the direction of Davies.

The court was told both directors were aware of the considerable extent and quantity of the materials containing asbestos within the building, as they had previously sought legitimate quotes for its competent removal.

However, HSE said they chose to save a considerable sum of money by avoiding properly planned and safe removal by a licensed asbestos removal contractor. They knowingly exposed workers to significant risks to their health.

In addition, the investigation could not determine where a very sizeable quantity of asbestos-contaminated debris ended up. As such, others in the waste removal chain were also likely to have been put at risk.

HSE’s focus on asbestos risks

All three defendants pleaded guilty to charges relating to a lack of adequate management of the removal of asbestos-containing materials.

Both Stephen Davies and Neil 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.

  • Davies, of Petworth, West Sussex was given an immediate custodial sentence of eight months in prison.
  • Bolton, of Petworth, West Sussex, was given a custodial sentence of four months, suspended for 12 months, with 250 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay costs of £5,123.
  • The Cavendish Winchester Ltd, of Newtown House, Liphook, was fined £30,000.

HSE has made the dangers of asbestos the focus of checks and campaigns, including Asbestos: Your Duty.

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