Last reviewed 13 July 2021

Power Link Machines (UK) Ltd has been prosecuted after failures to remove and manage gaskets that contained asbestos and for exposing employees to asbestos fibres.

Leeds Magistrates’ Court heard that in March 2018 a Prohibition Notice was served on the company after analysis by the Health and Safety Executive confirmed the presence of asbestos in gaskets in its generator sets. The Notice required Power Link to stop the use of these gaskets and ensure that they did not import any asbestos containing items.

Later that year, the HSE became aware that employees were being asked to work on a generator set, which contained gaskets which looked very similar to those found to contain asbestos. This unit had been imported from Power Link Machine (Shanghai) Co Ltd. Analysis showed that these gaskets also contained asbestos and as the generator set had been imported into this country, the company had breached the terms of the Prohibition Notice.

Prohibition Notices are issued where there is a risk of serious personal injury or activities subject to the relevant statutory provisions likely to be carried out and there is a risk of serious personal injury. They have immediate effect.

Following these incidents, the company subsequently allowed an untrained employee to remove the gaskets, an action that released asbestos fibres into the generator set. It then asked two other employees to work within that generator set, exposing them to asbestos fibres.

When materials that contain asbestos are disturbed or damaged, fibres are released into the air. When these fibres are inhaled they can cause serious diseases, such as lung cancer, mesothelioma or asbestosis.

Maintenance and low risk work such as the removal of gaskets which can be taken virtually intact without substantial breakage would not normally be notifiable provided that the material is in good condition. However, if the work is likely to cause significant break up and deterioration of the material then notification would be required.

Power Link Machines (UK) Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching s.2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 and breaching regulation 9(1) and Schedule 6, part 2, section 2 of the REACH Enforcement Regulations 2008. The company was fined £22,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2062.