Boss and his two firms ordered to pay £100,000 over asbestos failings

A company director from near Bridgnorth and two engineering firms which did not manage asbestos risks to employees have been ordered to pay more than £100,000 for the failings.

Former Smethwick Drop Forge site in Stourport Road, Kidderminster
Former Smethwick Drop Forge site in Stourport Road, Kidderminster

The case relates to Peter Gerard Parkes, the sole director of Kespar Engineering Ltd and SDF Automotive Ltd, both based in Kidderminster, and of former major employer Smethwick Drop Forge Ltd.

Kidderminster Magistrates Court heard that a large quantity of asbestos-containing materials, including insulating board, were identified during a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspection at the factory premises owned by Kespar Engineering in February 2019.

At the time the premises were occupied by SDF Automotive, which later went into administration in November 2019.

Employees of both companies worked at the site, in Stourport Road.

An HSE investigation identified the failure of all defendants to manage the risks from asbestos within the premises, including the failure to ensure the suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health of employees working there was carried out.

Although the defendants were aware that asbestos was present within the premises and had previously prepared asbestos management plans, these were not reviewed or updated, the location and condition of the asbestos on site was not actively monitored and the risk of any exposure to asbestos-containing materials was not adequately considered or controlled by the defendants.

Kespar Engineering Ltd was subsequently fined £51,000 and ordered to pay costs of £30,000 after pleading guilty to offences under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

Parkes, of Morville, near Bridgnorth, pleaded guilty to several offences under Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 relating to his individual failing as a director of Kespar Engineering Ltd, SDF Automotive Ltd, and Smethwick Drop Forge Ltd, also based in Stourport Road, in respect of the offences committed by the companies which were under his control.

He was was given a 12-month suspended prison sentence, fined £9,000 and ordered to pay costs of £14,000.

SDF Automotive Limited also pleaded guilty to breaching asbestos regulations and was given a conditional discharge for two years.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Sarah Reilly, said: “It is important that all duty holders including company directors recognise the importance of actively managing asbestos-containing materials in non-domestic premises and ensure that the potential risk to health posed by the materials is controlled.

“Health and safety law places duties on organisations and employers - directors can be personally liable and held to account when these duties are breached.”

In its post Second World War heyday car parts firm Smethwick Drop Forge Ltd had 1,000 employees working at sites in Kidderminster and Smethwick manufacturing drop forgings for automobile, railway, electrical, armament and other industries.

Despite efforts to save it, Smethwick Drop Forge Ltd collapsed with the loss of 43 jobs in 2016 following declining sales.

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