A warning about asbestos…

Earlier this year two companies – both the client and the contractor – were prosecuted for the same incident of asbestos disturbance. It’s an important case to be aware of to ensure you don’t find yourself in a similar situation.

The case was related to a project to convert a commercial building into flats in London.  The contractor had stripped out some fibrous boarding, the appearance of which should have raised concerns, but the work was not stopped.  The activity was noted by a building surveyor who had been asked to attend site.  He had a piece of the material tested and then informed the HSE that Asbestos Insulation Board (AIB) had been disturbed.  AIB is one of the most dangerous forms of asbestos material and exposure to it can cause lung cancer and Mesothelioma, a cancer which is always terminal.

The workers who had removed the material were not trained or equipped for the task which should have been undertaken by a licensed contractor with an enclosure, specialist PPE and decontamination equipment, amongst other things.  As a result, the workers involved received significant exposure to asbestos fibres.

The investigation by the HSE found that the client knew that the AIB was present but had not informed the contractor.  In turn, the contractor had not asked for the asbestos survey report which should have been available to them before work started.

In court, the client pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 10(1)(b) of the CDM Regulations 2007 and was fined £10,000 with £2,000 in costs.  The contractor pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and paid £6,000 in fines and costs.

The client was prosecuted as it had not done enough to identify asbestos.  Before the work started it should have arranged for a specialist surveyor to undertake a ‘refurbishment and demolition survey’.  Such a survey would have looked at all of the materials that could be disturbed by the work and identified the contents so that they could be properly removed and disposed of.  There is a danger in thinking that existing survey reports provide all the information required: they generally do not.  If work is planned in a building constructed before the year 2000 a refurbishment and demolition survey should be carried out.  Once this survey is completed it must be shared with all parties involved in the project as part of the Pre-Construction Information (PCI) document.

For more information on this issue, speak to one of our team on 01772 736522 or email admin@aegis-services-ltd.co.uk