Hatch Consultancy celebrates 2nd year in the South West


Hatch Consultancy, a specialist asbestos management consultancy providing asbestos testing, asbestos surveys and asbestos consultancy services throughout Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset are celebrating the end of their second year of trading in the South West.

The company, which is run by Chris Pearce who has over 20 years experience in the asbestos consultancy industry, prides itself on providing a professional asbestos service at highly competitive rates.

Chris says “I am delighted with the progress the company has made over the last 2 years – we have established a large client list, undertaking asbestos management surveys and asbestos refurbishment and demolition surveys for councils, architects, churches, construction companies and individuals. I believe we offer a realistic alternative to larger ,more established asbestos companies as we are able to offer a more personal and professional service at considerably lower costs.”

For more information or for asbestos related queries, please contact Hatch Consultancy at www.hatchconsultancy.co.uk.


November 17, 2015Permalink

How to select an asbestos surveyor?

If you require an asbestos survey for management or refurbishment and demolition purposes then it is important to ensure that you at appoint a company or surveyor that is competent to undertake the work required.

Asbestos Surveyor Competence

To be competent the surveyor should have sufficient training, qualifications, knowledge and experience and be able to demonstrate independence, impartiality and integrity.  The surveying company should also have an adequate quality management system and carry out the survey in accordance with recommended guidance (HSG264).

From a qualification point of view and in accordance with the industry accreditation body (UKAS) to be competent an individual should hold the P402 qualification (or equivalent) and have a minimum of 6 months relevant experience.  From a practical point of view and from first hand experience it is extremely unlikely that such an individual would have experience of all building types and in my view should only be undertaking the very basic of asbestos surveys.

Many duty holders believe that by employing a UKAS accredited company that they are getting the very best.  Whilst this may be true in some instances and a thorough quality management system will help, at the end of the day the quality of any survey comes down to the quality of the surveyor undertaking the asbestos survey.  Unfortunately, as with a lot of skilled trades there is often a shortage of skilled surveyors with the relevant experience so companies may use individuals with only basic qualifications and experience.

When the potential risks of missing asbestos are so high it is critical that when appointing a surveyor that not only is there is requirement to check on the competence of the company but more importantly you check on the experience of the specific surveyor who is going to undertake the asbestos survey (by checking their CV).  As a very general rule of thumb for management surveys of non-domestic premises I would expect two years plus experience with more experience required as the complexity of the survey increases. I would expect three years plus experience for a surveyor undertaking a refurbishment and demolition survey.

At Hatch Consultancy all asbestos surveys are undertaken by Chris Pearce who holds the CCP qualification in asbestos (the highest asbestos qualification available) and has over 20 years of experience in undertaking and managing asbestos surveys.



June 23, 2014Permalink

Can I identify if a product contains asbestos? (Part 1)

Asbestos has been added to a huge variety of products and whilst certain factors will help indicate if the product contains asbestos the only way to be sure is for the material to be sampled.

Key dates regarding asbestos identification

A key factor will be the age of the premises – by understanding when asbestos ceased to be present within certain materials you are likely to have a reasonable idea as to whether the material contains asbestos e.g.

  • Textured coatings were often manufactured with asbestos up to 1984.
  • The asbestos prohibition regs 1985 banned the import, supply and use of Amosite and Crocidolite.  So the use of Asbestos Insulation Board (containing these types of asbestos) should in theory have stopped after this date. A voluntary ban on the importation of Amosite was introduced in 1980.
  • The use of asbestos within sprayed insulation was stopped in 1974 - use of Crocidolite ceased in 1972.

It MUST be noted that these dates are a guidance only and stocks of products are known to have been used long after these cut off dates or machinery used to produce AIB was then used to produce ‘Supalux’ and it is not uncommon for the ‘Supalux’ to be contaminated with asbestos!

Properties of Asbestos

A second factor in understanding if a product contains asbestos is understanding the properties of asbestos. Asbestos fibre is mechanically strong and highly resistant to heat and chemical attack. Because of its fibrous nature asbestos fibre can be woven into fabrics and used as reinforcement for cement and plastics. With this simple knowledge and the age of the property a surveyor is able to predict where asbestos materials may have been used and even the type of asbestos that is likely to have been used. An obvious examples would be;

  • Asbestos cement - Cement by its nature is a relatively hard and resistant material but the asbestos ( between 10-15%) is added to further strengthen and reinforce it. The material is therefore associated in areas of buildings where characteristics such as strength and rigidity are required in addition to its heat resistant properties.  Examples would be external panelling or roofing sheets or where it is used as a shuttering to set concrete. Whilst all 3 of the main asbestos type have been used Chrysotile is most associated with this material because of its high tensile strength (long, wavy fibres) and the fact that more Chrysotile was imported into the country than all of the other asbestos types. A good indication of asbestos cement is a pimpled pattern on the surface of a profiled sheet.
  • IMG_1179
  • A close examination of the edges of the cement panel will often reveal clumps of white fibres (Chrysotile – white asbestos) – this is particularly evident if you use a small magnifying glass – a vital piece of equipment for a surveyor!



April 8, 2014Permalink

Family’s devastation at Devonport Dockyard worker’s asbestos death – aged just 44

By Plymouth Herald

THE family of a tragic Devonport Dockyard worker have spoken of their devastation at losing him to asbestos-related disease.

But at the age of  just 44, he died suddenly in his bed at home, a victim of the asbestos he had been exposed to during his time as a fitter and turner at Devonport Dockyard.

For his wife Valerie and daughter Karen, the emotions are as raw as they were almost 40 years ago.

But they have found solace from the fact, unknown to them until now, that his death inspired the union campaign to stop workers being routinely exposed to the deadly material.

Mr Sparks was born in the village of Millbrook, South East Cornwall, and began an apprenticeship in the dockyard after leaving school.

After two years’ National Service, which he loathed, he went back to work in the dockyard in 1959 – at a time when asbestos was widely used in shipbuilding, mainly as insulation material, but with little or no understanding of the risks it posed.

Valerie, now 75, said her husband was rarely ill and the kind to pass on coughs and colds without suffering himself.

But they were thrown into disarray when the results of an x-ray at the dockyard showed a shadow on his lung and the word asbestosis first entered their vocabulary.

“He went down to a hospital at Tehidy hospital in Cornwall where they did a biopsy,” Karen explained. “Unfortunately that left him paralysed which they thought was something to do with the anaesthetic.

“But it was while he was there that he overheard two doctors talking about a poor man on the ward who was terminally ill and was going to die. He didn’t realise they were actually talking about him.”

As he recovered from the biopsy, Mr Sparks was later transferred to Scott Hospital, then in Beacon Park, Plymouth. He was allowed to go home, but died in his sleep the same night.

“Nobody told us he was seriously ill,” Karen, who was 15 at the time, said.

“We didn’t know what we were dealing with. We had no idea. We didn’t know what asbestos did and had never heard of mesothelioma.”

The family were devastated. A friend with Mr Sparks’s weekly wages, due to be paid on the day of his death, was stopped at the gates of the dockyard.

“It was devastating,” Valerie said. “In those days you lived week to week and we simply didn’t have any money.”

Their short-term financial crisis was eased with £50 delivered by union leader Bill Goffin.

The grief-stricken mother and daughter were then faced with a post mortem, probate, a coroner’s inquest and pursuing compensation from the Ministry of Defence.

“We felt abandoned,” Karen said. “The Ministry of Defence didn’t want to know at all, to them we was just another number. But he was my dad. There was no counselling, nothing. We lost control of our lives.”

The family, with the help of Valerie’s parents, slowly began to rebuild their lives. As Valerie put it: “I had a young daughter to bring up, life goes on and you have to get on with it.”

Compensation from the Ministry of Defence helped although, as Karen said: “It was a pittance compared to the value of someone’s life. I would give everything I own just to have one more word with my dad.”

Karen is now a married mother-of-one. Valerie  remarried only four years ago.

But it was an interview with former senior dockyard AUEW/AEEU convener Bill Goffin, and his successors John Williams and Dick Powell, which delivered news they had never heard.

Mr Goffin said it had been Mr Sparks’s death that had inspired the union’s continuing fight against asbestos in the dockyard. After meeting the young family he had vowed “never again”.

En masse, the union’s men began to refuse to work when asbestos was present, despite threats from management. The collective action would eventually result in a health and safety regime years before any enforced by legislation.

“We never knew,” Karen said. “It feels like he didn’t die in vain. If my dad knew that he had helped others that would be something he would have treasured. To learn that after all this time is a real comfort for us.”
Read more: http://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/Family-s-devastation-Devonport-Dockyard-worker-s/story-20922459-detail/story.html#ixzz2yC0tpuQ2

April 7, 2014Permalink

Housing Trust and two lift companies fined for asbestos failings.

Yet another story of incompetence – this time the culprits are a housing trust and two lift companies.

The combined failures of all three parties led to the unsafe removal of the asbestos and the potential spread of asbestos fibres, which exposed residents and others to a potential risk to their health.

Are the fines high enough to prevent similar occurrences happening or is it a case of  total ignorance?

For the full story – http://press.hse.gov.uk/2014/housing-trust-and-two-firms-fined-for-potential-asbestos-risk/?eban=govdel-press-release&cr=06-Feb-2014

February 6, 2014Permalink

L143 – Revised ACOP issued

Two ACOPs, L127 (The management of asbestos in non-domestic premises) and L143 (Work with materials containing asbestos) have been consolidated into this single revised ACOP (L143 Second Edition). The ACOP has been revised to make legal compliance clearer to dutyholders and to reflect the changes introduced in The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.


December 20, 2013Permalink

2013 And companies still fail to manage the risk of asbestos!

Yet another story has appeared through the HSE website where multiple failings to manage asbestos have lead to individuals being exposed to asbestos.

Whilst the details of the story are almost unimportant what is relevant is that the HSE are still reporting that companies are failing to provide asbestos awareness training to employees who are likely to come into contact with asbestos (in this instance window installers) and companies are proceeding with works without ensuring correct provision has been made to identify and manage the risk from asbestos.  It is almost ironic that the HSE notified of this incident in the same notification as the British Lung Foundation Campaign – take 5 and stay alive.



December 4, 2013Permalink

The Female Face of Britain’s Asbestos Catastrophe.

A great article by Laurie Kazan-Allen written for the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat highlighting the three waves of death caused by asbestos exposure.

Considering the colossal levels of asbestos exposure experienced by British workers, consumers, bystanders and community members during the 20th century, there can be no doubt that the death toll from asbestos-related diseases has been massive;1 one occupational hygienist has estimated that the country’s cumulative asbestos death toll could well exceed 800,000. It is unfortunately true, however, that no one knows how many lives have been lost due to Britain’s love affair with asbestos; how many families have been torn asunder by avoidable asbestos-related deaths or how many children’s lives have been decimated by the early loss of a parent or the trauma of a beloved grandparent’s premature death.

Nowadays, Britain has the unwelcome distinction of having the world’s highest mortality rate from the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. Historically, male mesothelioma deaths have dominated the statistics with, at times, six times as many male as female fatalities. Considering the lower death rate amongst British women, it is of interest to note that so many of the landmark cases through which the national asbestos reality has been revealed relate to the tragic experiences of female victims. In factories and schools, at home and at work, British women have paid with their lives for the asbestos industry’s profits.

Nellie Kershaw – The First Named Victim of Asbestos Disease, 1924

Nellie Kershaw was a factory worker in asbestos textile mills in Rochdale, an industrial town near Manchester, from 1903, when she left school aged 12, until 1922 when she became too sick to work. On July 22, 1922 Nellie was issued a National Health Insurance certificate of ill health which identified her condition as “asbestos poisoning.” As this was an occupationally-related illness, she was unable to qualify for sickness benefit from the Newbold Approved Society, a society to which she had contributed. Despite increasingly plaintive requests from her and her husband, her employer – Turner Brothers Asbestos Company (TBA) – repeatedly refused to assist the couple and she died in poverty on March 24, 1924 leaving behind a grieving widower and young son. TBA’s determination to repudiate liability for Nellie’s asbestos-related disease, its determination to contest the accuracy of her diagnosis and its use of legal and medical experts to fight its corner were indicative of strategies that would be relied upon by British asbestos defendants for decades to come.

This case was a rarity in that the patient had been medically diagnosed during life to be suffering from an asbestos-related disease, a fact confirmed by a post-mortem examination conducted at the coroner’s request. The findings from a subsequent microscopic examination of the lungs, also ordered by the coroner, were presented at the 1924 coroner’s inquest which issued a certificate stating the cause of death was “fibrosis of the lungs due to the inhalation of mineral particles.” Nellie’s death was the first to be officially recognized as being due to “pulmonary asbestosis,”2 indeed the nomenclature “asbestosis” was used by Dr. W. E. Cooke in his 1924 report of her case to the British Medical Journal.3

Nora Dockerty The First Successful British Asbestos Claimant, 1952

Like Nellie Kershaw, Nora Dockerty (née Kelly) worked for TBA, starting at the Rochdale asbestos factory after leaving school aged 15 in 1933. When her contract of employment was terminated due to illness in November 1948, she had given thirteen and a half years of service initially as a machine assistant in TBA’s Carding and Spinning Department. At her death in 1950, Nora was only 31 years old, two years younger than Nellie Kershaw had been when she died.4 Whereas Mr Kershaw survived Nellie and was able to look after their daughter, Nora’s husband had pre-deceased her leaving her father to pursue TBA for compensation on his granddaughter’s behalf. An autopsy of lung tissue conducted by Dr Manning at the Rochdale Mortuary enabled the coroner to confirm the cause of death as “Generalised Tuberculosis accelerated by the presence of Asbestosis” on February 23, 1950. A subsequent report by the Pneumoconiosis Medical Panel in Manchester concluded that the cause of death was “Pneumoconiosis (Asbestosis) accompanied by Tuberculosis”.

The coroner’s verdict provided the impetus for the Kelly family to begin legal proceedings. Having spoken to an official at the National Union of General and Municipal Workers, Mr Kelly, Nora’s father, began the process of gathering the evidence which would be needed if a lawsuit was to succeed. The information collected was passed to the union which then instructed the law firm of Messrs John Whittle, Robinson & Bailey to act for the family. After protracted negotiations and extensive legal jostling, the case was finally settled in January 1952 when Turner & Newall, TBA’s parent company, paid the sum of £375 with costs. Commenting on the significance of the case brought for the death of Nora Dockerty, Professor Nick Wikeley wrote: “The story of Kelly v. Turner & Newall Ltd represents a microcosm of the balance struck in the asbestos industry between workers’ health and company profitability: between 1931 and 1948, £87,938 was paid out to 140 asbestosis victims under the Asbestosis Scheme; in the same period, nearly £7 million was distributed to shareholders.”5

Nancy Tait – Founder of the World’s First Asbestos Victims’ Group, 1978

Unlike the other ladies named in this article, Nancy Tait did not die of an asbestos-related disease. She was, nonetheless, a victim as her husband Bill died of pleural mesothelioma in 1968. As a telephone engineer, Bill had been exposed to asbestos at work on a routine basis, a fact that his employer continued to deny. It was four years after Bill’s death that Nancy finally forced the authorities to admit liability for his disease; the paltry offer they made to settle the claim, £4,000, was refused. The tragedy of her husband’s early death was the event which dominated the rest of Nancy’s life, a life spent helping others to overcome the medical, legal and social barriers which prevented victims from accessing the treatment they needed and the compensation they deserved. That she was successful at helping others to navigate government bureaucracy and extract compensation from negligent employers at a time when the cards were very clearly stacked against working people is testament to her tremendous commitment, persistence, phenomenal memory and civil service training.

The Society for the Prevention of Asbestosis and Industrial Diseases (SPAID) that Nancy established in 1978 was the first group anywhere in the world to lobby for the needs of asbestos victims. SPAID was a registered charity which offered free advice and support to victims and family members. Nancy did not keep office hours or “do weekends.” She was available on the phone and in person to those in need when they needed her. Widows facing the daunting prospect of a coroner’s inquest were comforted by the presence of this white-haired, innocuous looking English lady with sensible shoes and a matronly demeanour. That demeanour belied a mind like a steel trap – woe betides any official, expert or witness who underestimated her. It was common for Nancy to find herself in a coroner’s court pitted against the best experts the employers’ money could buy. She confronted them in formal settings, at parliamentary hearings, occupational health conferences and inquest proceedings. Her opponents tried to dismiss her as an amateur and attempts were made to discredit her, all of which failed. Nancy died on February 13, 2009, at age 89, having devoted the 41 years of her life since Bill’s death to helping others. She left a legacy of compassion and achievement of which anyone would be proud.

Alice Jefferson The Focus of Landmark TV Documentary, 1982

At age 17, Alice Jefferson (born 1935) went to work at the Cape Asbestos factory in Acre Mill, Yorkshire; the three months she spent working in clouds of asbestos dust were all that were needed to cause the mesothelioma which took her life three decades later. Like Nellie Kershaw and Nora Dockerty she died way before her time leaving behind her son Paul 15 and daughter Patsy 5, her husband and grieving family members. In 1982 Alice was the focus of a landmark documentary that was broadcast on prime time mainstream TV; it was watched by nearly 6 million viewers. Explaining the contribution made by Alice to the program, industrial historian Geoffrey Tweedale wrote:

“much of the documentary’s impact was due to its unrelenting focus on Alice, who demonstrated enormous fortitude in the face of a pitiless disease. Her physician described her as a ‘typical West Yorkshire lass. She’s tough and realistic and you can’t kid this lady. This lady knows exactly what the score is.’ Alice’s reaction was to fight, especially for her husband and young son and daughter. As she explained: ‘You can’t give in, can you? You owe it to yourself and your family to keep fighting, don’t you. And when you get knocked down, get up and stand there again…’”6

The ninety minute program, entitled Alice – A Fight for Life, marked a watershed in Britain’s attitude to asbestos and led to questions being asked in Parliament and action being taken; ten days after Alice was screened, the government reduced the legal limit for occupational asbestos exposures. The adverse publicity generated by the program impacted on British asbestos companies with Turner & Newall, the country’s “asbestos giant,” losing £60 million in its share value. All of this came too late for Alice; she died a month after filming ended and four months before the documentary was broadcast.

June Hancock The First Successful Environmental Claimant, 1995

June Hancock (born 1936) grew up in the shadow of an asbestos factory in the town of Armley, West Yorkshire. After losing her mother Maie Gelder to mesothelioma in 1982, June came face to face with the nightmare once more when she too was diagnosed with mesothelioma (1993). Neither she nor her mother had worked with asbestos.7June knew how the disease would progress; she knew that everyday tasks would become increasingly arduous and simple pleasures unobtainable; she chose to fight back. Her opponent, J. W. Roberts Ltd. (JWR), had been operating from the Armley site since 1895. In 1920, it had become a subsidiary of Turner & Newall (T&N) Limited. So, by suing JWR, June was in reality suing T&N. In 1995, T&N’s 40,000 employees generated a £2 billion turnover at two hundred installations in twenty-four countries; the company wasn’t about to give in easily. Undaunted, June instructed a solicitor shortly after she was diagnosed; a writ was issued on September 5, 1994.

It was a test case; never before had anyone succeeded in getting compensation for environmental asbestos exposure from an English company. June’s case was combined with that of Evelyn Margereson, the widow of a mesothelioma victim who had, like June, lived near the Roberts’ textile factory. In the sixty-six page ruling handed down on October 27, 1995, Justice Holland awarded both claimants full compensation paying a “warm tribute to her (June’s) dignity and courage.” The appeal lodged by the defendants was dismissed on April 2, 1996 and permission to appeal to the House of Lords was refused. And so it ended: June Hancock received £65,000, Evelyn Margereson £50,000. Not much for two lives. But what a victory – June, her family and her legal team were jubilant. June’s words were quoted nationally: “It proves however small you are you can fight and however big you can lose.” After the verdict, other mesothelioma victims from Armley and Washington, the location of another T&N subsidiary, received out-of-court settlements. June was right; her fight had made it “easier for others.” June was 61 years old when she died on July 19, 1997, her daughter Kimberley and sons Russell and Tommy by her side. Considering that her dad lived till he was 86, there is no way of knowing how many years were stolen from her by the asbestos contagion permeating the air, water and streets of Armley.

Gina Lees – A Symbol of Britain’s Third Wave of Asbestos Deaths, 2000

Studies of the global impact of asbestos have identified three waves of deaths: the first was amongst those people who worked directly with asbestos such as Nellie Kershaw, Nora Dockerty and Alice Jefferson, the second affected workers like Bill Tait who used asbestos products whilst the third is associated with exposure to asbestos in situ such as that experienced by plumbers, electricians, carpenters and refurbishment workers.8 In 2000, at age 51, Gina Lees died of asbestos cancer, a mere three months after her condition had been diagnosed. Gina had never worked with asbestos, nor lived near an asbestos factory; none of her relatives had worked in an industrial setting where they were exposed to asbestos. When she was diagnosed with the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma, neither she nor her husband could comprehend how a primary schoolteacher could contract an industrial disease. So began a personal quest by her husband Michael for an explanation.

As Michael pored through government records, witness statements and archival material, he put together a dossier which revealed appalling behaviour by successive governments determined to ignore the deadly problem posed by asbestos in schools. Michael discovered that most of the 25 schools in which Gina had worked during her teaching career contained asbestos products which were often in a damaged and dangerous condition, a fact which was unknown to the schools’ head teachers, governors and staff. When Michael raised his concerns with the authorities, he was “dismayed” by their indifference. During the course of his research activities, Michael made contact with asbestos victims, scientific experts, trade unionists and public health campaigners, as a result of which a network to tackle the “national scandal” of asbestos in UK schools was born. Gina Lees was not the first schoolteacher to die of hazardous workplace exposure and she won’t be the last but her case was the catalyst for the unprecedented mobilization on asbestos in schools which has taken place in recent years.

Debbie Brewer – 21st Century Warrior, 2012

Debbie Brewer, born in 1959, was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in November 2006. Her asbestos exposure was a result of her father’s employment from 1963 to 1966 in Plymouth; as a lagger he removed asbestos insulation from pipework for the Ministry of Defence (MoD). He returned home at the end of the day with asbestos on his work clothes. He died of lung cancer in August 2006, three months before his daughter’s cancer was diagnosed. Debbie’s case, one of the first to hold the MoD to account for its negligence, was settled at the end of 2007 with the payment of a six figure sum. A single mother of three children, the youngest of whom was ten years old when she was diagnosed, Debbie was determined to explore all the options, including alternative therapies, that could prolong her life. Having been in touch with mesothelioma sufferer Anthony Webb and his wife Patricia, Debbie decided to travel to Frankfurt for chemoembolization, a course of action she did not disclose at the time to her Plymouth oncologist who had warned her of “internet sharks.” After three treatments in Germany, each of which cost €4,000, a CT scan showed a significant reduction in the size of her tumour. It was at that point that Debbie informed her oncologist of the treatment she had had. Although surprised by the apparent efficacy of this alternative therapy, she reports, he was responsive to the evidence in front of his eyes.

Debbie, a natural communicator, had been on TV and in newspapers by the time she discovered that Facebook and other social media sites could be used to help spread awareness of the options open to mesothelioma sufferers as well as build an online community in which those with mesothelioma, their family and friends could come together for mutual support. This was the ethos behind the founding of the Mesothelioma Warriors Facebook page which provides comfort as well as answers from one sufferer to another. “No matter what time of day, someone somewhere will respond to a post by one of our members. If you are having a down day, you can speak openly on our site, without fear of upsetting your family. Our anger group enables people to cope.”

Concluding Thoughts

Over more than one hundred years, a public health disaster has unfolded in Britain which has claimed more lives than any other occupational epidemic. This humanitarian catastrophe was caused by industry’s use of asbestos, a substance imported from abroad. Corporate executives as well as government ministers, civil servants and elected representatives were responsible for unleashing a ferocious onslaught on ordinary men and women who were powerless in the face of this deadly carcinogen. The same excuses advanced to prolong the use of asbestos in Britain are still being promoted by vested interests in countries where asbestos use remains legal. The dimensions and severity of the British asbestos experience should be more than enough to convince a reasonable person that humanity has a right to live in an asbestos-free atmosphere. The tragedies in other countries which are also documented in the special edition of Women & Environments International Magazine,9 for which this article was written, provide corroboration, if it were even needed, that asbestos should be banned the world over.

November 29, 2013Permalink