Ballymena company fined for exposing workers to asbestos

Editorial image
Editorial image

Ballymena company Metallix Ltd. has been fined £6,000 plus costs of £564 for three health and safety breaches which resulted in workers being exposed to asbestos.

Sentencing at Antrim Crown Court on Thursday, comes after a Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) investigation into how, over several days in April 2014, employees and sub-contractors at the company’s premises at Pennybridge Industrial Estate, Ballymena, were exposed to asbestos.

On or around April 8, 2014, while preparing the site for the installation of two overhead cranes in a workshop, asbestos insulation board was removed in an uncontrolled manner by two Metallix Ltd employees. In addition, from around April 8, 2014 to April 15, 2014, the contaminated area continued to be accessed by employees and sub-contractors.

Metallix Ltd manufactures metal components and sub-assemblies for the automotive industry and employs around 130 staff, with approximately 50 based at its Pennybridge site.

Speaking after today’s sentencing Jonathan Knox, an inspector with HSENI’s major investigation team, said: “Metallix Ltd needlessly put at risk the health of more than 50 people by its failure to properly manage asbestos containing materials at its Pennybridge site. This failure was compounded by the fact that, after two of its employees destructively removed asbestos insulation board, the company then failed to prevent access to the contaminated area over a number of days.

“Any company that intends to do work on buildings built prior to the year 2000 must ensure that they have taken all reasonable steps to check whether asbestos is present before work starts. This information must then be shared with anyone involved in the proposed work.”

On average over recent years, more than 60 people die every year in Northern Ireland as a result of breathing in asbestos fibres, making it the biggest single cause of work-related deaths here.

When asbestos fibres are breathed in, they can become lodged in the lungs or digestive tract which can lead to lung cancer or other diseases. However, symptoms usually don’t appear until several decades after exposure.

HSENI’s Duty to Manage Campaign outlines the legal duties required for those who are responsible for the repair and maintenance of properties to manage the risks from asbestos: