But no one was injured …
The recent prosecution of two Yorkshire based companies for breach of health and safety Regulations is a stark reminder that prosecutions are brought on the basis of the risk of harm caused by the breach not any actual harm caused.
On 18 August 2014 Hallmark Design and Shopfitting began refurbishment works for Berry's jewellers (owned by Berens and Company Limited) when it disturbed materials containing asbestos. A licensed asbestos contractor was then arranged to remove it.
During a routine Health and Safety Executive ("HSE") inspection of the asbestos removal, the HSE found that the plan for the removal work prepared by Hallmark was inadequate. Further investigation revealed that Berens had not provided Hallmark with relevant information about the asbestos on the site
Both companies were prosecuted. Whilst Hallmark has since been liquidated, Berens pleaded guilty to its failings, was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay £20,000 in costs.
Whilst the impact of exposure to asbestos is not known for many years (and, therefore, the real harm caused cannot yet be assessed), this case is another example of a company being prosecuted and fined heavily when no accident or injury has taken place.
This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.