Bad asbestos management procedures cost Birmingham school £30k

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Failing to follow the correct procedures for asbestos removal and management has cost a Birmingham school more than £30,000.

Equitas Academies Trust, the owner and operator of Aston Manor Academy, had to spend £20,000 on the decontamination and replacement of floor coverings after strips of asbestos insulating board (AIB) packers were removed using a crowbar and then carelessly disposed of during work to replace old windows in June 2012.

It also had to dispose of soft furnishings and children’s work, and close part of the school for a number of days during the clean-up operation. In addition, the operator was fined £7,500 and ordered to pay £3,000 in costs after admitting to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

At a hearing on November 14th 2013, Birmingham Magistrates’ Court heard that Equitas Academies Trust had appointed Birmingham Glass Services Ltd (BGS) to replace the windows, but that it failed to provide any information about asbestos on site to the glazing contractor.

The school’s site manager told staff from BGS that ‘to the best of his knowledge’, there were no asbestos containing materials around the windows, but the workers soon encountered AIB packers in a position that prevented them from installing the new glass.

As they had not received proper asbestos training, they went ahead and removed the strips using a crowbar, snapped them and dumped the pieces next to a decontamination unit that was on the site as part of unrelated asbestos removal work at the Birmingham school.

The workers were not wearing protective clothing, so they were exposed to loose asbestos fibres, as well as spreading them across parts of the site.

Following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Birmingham Glass Services Ltd was also charged. It pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £1,969 in costs.

HSE Inspector Paul Thompson said the school would have avoided the incident if it had had proper asbestos management procedures in place.

“The school failed to ensure employees and management received adequate training to ensure that a suitable asbestos management plan was in place,” he said.

“By not providing asbestos awareness training to their operatives and not taking steps to ensure that they had information on where asbestos was in the premises before works commenced, Birmingham Glass Services Ltd failed in their duty to protect their employees and members of the public from potential exposure to asbestos.”

Find out more about safe asbestos removal by licensed contractors and dutyholder responsibilities.

Published: 18th November 2013