Boss knowingly put staff at risk during illegal asbestos removal


A company director has been jailed after failing to protect his workers from exposure to asbestos at a student accommodation project in Winchester. 

An investigation found Cavendish Winchester Limited, a company set up by Mr Stephen Davies, of Petworth, West Sussex, illegally removed 10 tonnes of asbestos insulating board (AIB) while refurbishing a Winnall Close commercial unit in late 2019 and early 2020.   

Davies, 59, and his co-director Mr Neil Bolton, aged 56 and also of Petworth, knowingly used unqualified workers to do the job, who were found to be unaware of the risks to their health. 

Southampton Crown Court heard both men knew about the “considerable extent and quantity” of dangerous materials in the building, as they had previously sought quotes for its proper removal. 

But Davies and Bolton chose instead to save money, not to hire a licenced contractor, and knowingly put their workers’ health at significant risk. 

Both men pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act. 

Davies received an eight-month prison sentence; Bolton was handed a four-month sentence suspended for 12 months, 250 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay costs of more than £5,123; and the company itself was fined £30,000. 

Health and Safety Executive principal inspector, Steve Hull, said: “We brought this case because, despite the directors of this company being put on notice of the risks involved, they put profit before the health of those they employed. 

“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. 

“This work involved the removal of an estimated 10 tonnes of AIB. The defendants then 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.” 

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