Last reviewed 17 January 2019

The festive period saw the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issue notices of a series of fines for companies involved in asbestos offences.

Derby Crown Court heard that on 1 August 2016, Oakwood Junior School in Derby was undergoing refurbishment work during the school holidays. During the work, two subcontractors removing suspended ceiling tiles from rooms in the school entered a storage room which had a suspended ceiling made from asbestos containing ceiling tiles. They started to remove the tiles, unaware that they contained asbestos, potentially exposing themselves to harmful asbestos fibres. A licensed asbestos removal company working on site alerted management to the situation and action was taken to stop the work and deal with the contamination.

An investigation by the HSE found that Ashe Construction Ltd, the principal contractor for the project, failed to effectively plan, manage and monitor the work to prevent the accidental removal of the asbestos containing tiles. Ashe Construction failed to effectively communicate information about the asbestos, leaving the storage room open without barriers or signage warning of asbestos. The work was not then suitably managed or monitored to ensure that nobody came into contact with the asbestos.

The HSE investigation also found that Cladceil Ltd, a contractor appointed by Ashe Construction to carry out the suspended ceiling removal work, also failed to effectively plan, manage and monitor the work. The company appointed a subcontractor to remove the suspended ceilings on its behalf but provided only a generic risk assessment and method statement which failed to identify important information, including the asbestos risk.

Ashe Construction of Herefordshire pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 13(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM) and s.3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA). It was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9759.76.

Cladceil of Nottingham pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 15(2) of the CDM. It was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay costs of £47,184.48.

Next, Glasgow Sheriff Court heard that between 8 November 2015 and 11 December 2015, City Building (Glasgow) LLP was carrying out refurbishment work at a flat in Glasgow. An employee who was unaware of the presence of asbestos fibres within a kitchen cupboard door cut through the door and disturbed the asbestos fibres.

An investigation by the HSE found that following receipt of an Asbestos Refurbishment Survey pertaining to the kitchen, City Building (Glasgow) failed to realise that the door had not been surveyed. The company pleaded guilty to breaching s.2(1) of the HSWA and was fined £4000.

Finally, a landlord and building contractor have been fined after large quantities of asbestos fibres were released from the demolition of a conservatory at a rented property.

Birmingham Magistrates’ Court heard how the landlord commissioned a building contractor to replace a conservatory containing asbestos panels at a property in Selly Oak, Birmingham between 18 August and 29 August 2017. Asbestos was spread as the panels were removed in a haphazard and uncontained way.

An investigation by the HSE found that the landlord should have had an asbestos survey carried out prior to work beginning, and the building contractor should not have started work without one. The building contractor took no precautions and asbestos was spread to the home, contents and next door.

Wah Kei Dany Ng of Sutton Coldfield pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4 of the CDM and was fined £1200 and ordered to pay costs of £607.21.

Jasvir Singh Sangha of West Bromwich pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 5 and 16 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and has been sentenced to 150 hours unpaid work and ordered to pay costs of £596.61.

It is timely that the British Occupational Hygiene Society has revised and re-launched its asbestos refresher course series. The new RP402 (asbestos surveying refresher course) was made available on 31 October, with RP404 (asbestos site clearance analysis) and RP405 (asbestos management) following close behind in November 2018.