London building contractor fined for asbestos safety breaches

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A London building contractor has been fined £10,000 after a breakdown in communication resulted in the unsafe removal of asbestos insulating board (AIB) from a refurbishment site.

Battersea-based Redwood Contractors Ltd had a detailed asbestos survey for the warehouse it was working on at Molly Millars Close in Wokingham, but failed to share the information with the team on site.

Unaware of the presence of AIB, a foreman mistook the high-risk substance for lower-risk asbestos cement and removed it.

Removal of AIB is a job for a licensed asbestos contractor, who would use the correct control procedures and protective equipment to minimise the risk of exposure to potentially deadly fibres.

As the correct procedures were not followed during the work in Wokingham, the foreman and others on site may have unwittingly inhaled asbestos fibres.

A subsequent investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the foreman had not been provided with the asbestos survey that detailed the presence of AIB, despite the fact it had been carried out just two months earlier.

This oversight led to Redwood Contractors Ltd being charged with two breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006. At a hearing at Reading Magistrates’ Court, the company pleaded guilty to both and was fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay a further £2,857 in costs.

HSE inspector Karen Morris said: “It is disappointing that the foreman and others were needlessly put at risk simply because the asbestos survey for the warehouse wasn’t supplied to the team on the ground, or the location of the AIB relayed.

“What is the point of having a suitable survey in hand if you aren’t going to act on it and share vital information with those who need to know?”

She added that dutyholders needed to implement the correct control measures at all times when managing asbestos risks.

For more information about asbestos surveys or the removal of AIB by a licensed contractor, please contact BLS Asbestos.

Published: 15th May 2014