Last reviewed 14 October 2021

MS Properties (Northern) Ltd has been fined for safety breaches after employees were exposed to asbestos when removing false ceiling tiles during a shop conversion.

The hazards of working with asbestos are now widely known. Asbestos can be found in any building built before the year 2000 and this legacy causes around 5000 deaths in the UK every year.

Beverley Magistrates’ Court heard that the company had not commissioned a refurbishment asbestos survey prior to the work commencing. Employees removed over 1000m2 of asbestos insulation board (AIB) ceiling tiles in an uncontrolled manner, exposing them to asbestos.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has specific guidance on removing AIB ceiling tiles, with details of how to prepare the area, what equipment to use and how to remove the tiles themselves. This includes carefully lowering one end of the tile, vacuuming its upper surface and spraying with PVA. Keep the tile flat and lower it gently. Workers should put used rags, polythene sheeting and other waste in the asbestos waste bag and tape it closed. There is also a guidance document on disposing asbestos waste, that states waste must be packed in UN-approved packaging with a CDG hazard label and asbestos code information visible and arrange for transport by a licensed waste carrier.

In this case, investigating HSE officers found that the company’s director, and the casual labourers they employed, spent approximately three to four weeks removing the suspended ceiling, along with the ceiling tiles which contained asbestos, to install new stud walls to divide the shop floor into separate units. The labourers were unskilled and untrained. They were provided with a claw hammer to knock the tiles down. The asbestos-containing tile debris was then shovelled or collected into approximately 62 one tonne bags.

MS Properties (Northern) Limited of Bradford, pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 5 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. The company was fined £16,000, ordered to pay £3011.87 in costs and a victim surcharge of £190.