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Housing trust fined £10k after unsafe asbestos removal

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A trust providing accommodation for the elderly has been fined £10,000 after failing to ensure correct asbestos management procedures were followed during refurbishment work at a sheltered housing scheme in Alnwick, Northumberland.

Staff and residents at St Pauls Court, which is managed by Anchor Trust, were put at risk of exposure to asbestos fibres when asbestos boards were removed from a lift shaft by a contractor in November 2012.

Anchor Trust had appointed West Yorkshire-based Express Elevators Ltd to replace a lift and it had subcontracted part of the work to PC Lifts Ltd of London.

While taking out the existing lift, workers from PC Lifts removed the asbestos boards without taking any steps to prevent the spread of asbestos fibres, exposure to which can cause illnesses such as lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Asbestos removal work must be strictly controlled.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found Anchor Trust had failed in its duty to ensure the work was carried out in a safe fashion, as the asbestos survey it gave to the contractors was not accurate or detailed enough.

The safety authority also concluded Express Elevators had not planned and managed the project correctly, as it had not made sufficient enquiries about the possible presence of asbestos in the lift shaft.

The investigation found PC Lifts had not made adequate inquiries about asbestos prior to commencing the job and had not put the correct lighting in place, which contributed to their failure to identify that the boards were made from asbestos.

At a hearing at Bedlington Magistrates on February 6th 2014, Anchor Trust was fined £10,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 9(1)(a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, Express Elevators of Baildon was fined £8,000 after admitting a breach of Regulation 13(2) of the same legislation, and PC Lifts was fined £4,000 after admitting a breach of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

HSE inspector Natalie Wright said the incident had been entirely avoidable, if the organisations had followed the correct procedures.

“This prosecution should act as a reminder to all involved in such work, that whenever work is carried out which is liable to expose employees to asbestos a suitable survey must be done to establish whether asbestos is present before any work begins,” she added.

To find out more about asbestos surveys and removal, please contact BLS Asbestos.

Published: 10th February 2014