A tour operator and a ship management firm have been fined £18,000 after workers were exposed to asbestos fibres during refurbishment work on board a cruise ship.
All Leisure Holidays Ltd, of West Sussex, and Andrew Weir Shipping Ltd, of Edinburgh, had arranged for the work to be carried out on the Hebridean Princess to reduce the amount of combustible material on the ship.
The cruise ship has a capacity for 50 passengers and tours the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the companies after an investigation found that two self-employed labourers had been hired to remove ceiling panels and wooden fixings in the Tiree lounge without carrying out the required asbestos survey.
Teesside Magistrates’ Court heard on Monday that the Hebridean Princess, built in 1964, had a refit and was bought in April 2009 by All Leisure Holidays Ltd who engaged Andrew Weir Shipping Ltd to manage the vessel.
On December 1, 2009, the ship was docked in Middlesbrough and two labourers from Nottingham were instructed by Andrew Weir Shipping Ltd to begin removing the ceiling and wall panels in the Tiree Lounge.
On the second day, they were told to stop work by the shipyard over concerns that there was asbestos behind the ceiling panels. Tests confirmed that asbestos fibres were present and also in the debris the workers had left in the lounge the previous day.
HSE found that Andrew Weir Shipping Ltd had an asbestos survey carried out in 2008 for the previous owners which identified asbestos behind some ceiling panels in another part of the ship. The court heard that this should have alerted them to the potential for asbestos to be present elsewhere.
All Leisure Holidays Ltd was given a copy of the 2008 survey when they purchased the ship but failed to identify that it was incomplete and was insufficient to allow the work to be carried out.
All Leisure Holidays Ltd was fined a total of £6000 and ordered to pay £5640.85 costs after it pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 5 and Regulation 11(1)(b) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.
Andrew Weir Shipping Ltd was fined a total of £12,000 and ordered to pay £5829.15 costs after it pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 5, Regulation 11(1)(b) and Regulation 16 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.
After the case, HSE Inspector Victoria Wise, said: "All Leisure Holidays Ltd and Andrew Weir Shipping Ltd both failed to ensure that a suitable and sufficient assessment was made of the risk created by the presence of asbestos and therefore did not take the steps required in order to comply with the regulations.
"As a result the two men inadvertently disturbed the asbestos and spread the fibres. In doing so they were potentially exposed to a substance that is known to cause diseases such as lung cancer and mesothelioma.
"This incident was entirely preventable and should act as a reminder to other ships owners and management firms."
Asbestos-related diseases are responsible for around 4000 deaths a year. Working on or near damaged asbestos-containing materials without adequate precautions or breathing in high levels of asbestos fibres could increase your chances of getting an asbestos-related disease.
A spokesman for the owners and managers of the boat said: "The charges related to work carried out during a refit of the cruise vessel Hebridean Princess in December 2009, during which a small amount of asbestos dust was found in the cable trays behind a deckhead in one of the passenger areas.
"The asbestos dust is believed to have accumulated in 1996 when asbestos was removed from the vessel by previous owners. The amount found was in quantities below the control limit of concentration of asbestos in the atmosphere.
"As soon as these very small traces of asbestos dust were found, All Leisure Holidays immediately halted all work in the area before arranging a full and forensic cleansing of the area. We then revisited and updated our Asbestos Management Plan, and provided further training to the vessel's senior officers to ensure that there can be no further breaches of the relevant regulations."
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