Two Stoke-on-Trent brothers with little experience of construction have been jailed after they exposed workers to asbestos.
At least seven workers are known to have been exposed to asbestos – one aged just 17 at the time – by Akram Hussain, 52, of City Road, and Inam Hussain, 47, of Boughey Road, during refurbishment work at a former print works since February 2012.
Stafford Crown Court heard that neither was qualified or experienced in construction, demolition or refurbishment work; nor were they licensed to remove asbestos.
Akram Hussain is a snooker hall manager and Inam Hussain a taxi driver, although they have been carrying out the work on the building for around ten years.
Despite repeated visits from HSE inspectors and numerous enforcement notices warning them of their failings, the brothers continued to refurbish the building and disturb asbestos material – putting workers at risk.
A Prohibition Notice was issued on 17 February 2012 stopping all work with, or liable to disturb, asbestos.
A ‘Direction to Leave Undisturbed’ was also issued for the building until HSE had provided written confirmation that work could continue.
But several lorry-loads of waste contaminated with asbestos were removed from the site and taken to an unlicensed waste disposal site in Stoke-on-Trent.
Workers were also witnessed exiting the site covered in dust and not wearing the correct protective clothing.
A further Prohibition Notice and an Improvement Notice were served on Akram Hussain on 25 February 2012.
A separate Prohibition Notice was also served on Inam Hussain on 18 May 2012 for the non-licensed removal of the asbestos from the building.
An asbestos survey was later carried out, but work inside the building continued to disturb materials containing asbestos.
The court heard that HSE is aware of at least seven workers being exposed to asbestos in the building.
Many more could have been exposed during the course of the refurbishment project.
Akram Hussain and Inam Hussain both pleaded guilty to safety breaches.
Akram Hussain was given a custodial sentence of 22 months and ordered to pay costs of £43,000.
Inam Hussain was given a custodial sentence of 14 months.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Lindsay Hope said: “The Hussains have shown a willful disregard for the health and safety of workers and others.
“Our investigation uncovered a catalogue of serious errors, safety failings and a disregard of the laws around the safe and correct removal of asbestos.
“This was an appalling case of failing to properly plan, manage and resource this project, which led to workers being exposed to risks to their health from asbestos.”