Sunderland firm fined following illegal asbestos removal work

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A Sunderland furniture company has been fined £3,000 after inadvertently removing asbestos insulating board from a garage.

Two employees of Interior Designs (NE), of Station Road, Fulwell, were working at a property in Cleadon on January 10th 2013 when they removed what they believed to be plasterboard from a garage ceiling and carried it to their van.

One of the workers then noticed that fragments of the plasterboard were “sharp and spiky”, and the pair immediately halted work, reports the Sunderland Echo.

The area around the property was subsequently sealed off to allow a licensed asbestos contractor to carry out a clean-up operation and test the substance, which was later confirmed as asbestos.

Despite its employees stopping work as soon as they realised there could be a problem, Interior Designs (NE) was charged following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive, which found it had failed to carry out an asbestos survey before beginning the job.

The company admitted a breach of health and safety regulations at a hearing at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court and explained the offence had been “born entirely of ignorance”.

Magistrates fined Interior Designs (NE) £3,000 and ordered it to pay £168 in costs and a £120 victim surcharge.

Asbestos-containing materials can be very difficult to identify - for example, asbestos insulating board often looks exactly like standard plasterboard and ceiling tiles, while asbestos floor tiles are almost identical in appearance to some of the modern tiles used under carpets.

This is one of the reasons why it is sensible to use professionals to carry out asbestos surveys as part of the fulfilment of standard dutyholder requirements at non-domestic properties or before commencing any work on properties built before 2000.

For more information about asbestos surveys and removal by a licensed contractor, please get in touch with BLS Asbestos.

Published: 11th December 2013