Contractor health and safety compromised over asbestos safety training failures

By IANPEMBERTON | Published: 06/06/2011

A recent prosecution of both a contractor and the principal highlights the thorny issue of health and safety competency assessments during contractor management. Quarnmill Construction Ltd and one of their contractors, Wayne Priestley, were prosecuted in relation to the demolition of the former Allens Printers building in Derby in October 2009. During the demolition work asbestos was placed into an open skip exposing workers and lorry drivers to this hazard.

Wayne Priestley had assured Quarnmill Construction that the removal of asbestos was within his capability. However, once the job began Priestley employed workers who had not received suitable asbestos safety training and they were not appropriately managed. During the court proceedings Priestley claimed that he had not deliberately mislead Quarmill Construction.

This case highlights two important points:

  1. Both the Principal and contractor have a shared health and safety responsibility for work undertaken on the Principal’s site – if something goes wrong the principal must be able to show what they did to manage effectively the contractor
  2. When it comes to health and safety competency, as this case shows, it is risky to simply take the word of a contractor or look just at previous work undertaken. The only way a principal can be sure that workers are competent is to check the training records of each individual involved. Employers do this with their own people, and when it comes to health and safety, the same checks have to be extended to contractor employees because of the shared duty of care.