Unsafe asbestos removal leads to fine for building contractor

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An Ipswich building company has been fined £10,000 after the unsafe removal of asbestos insulating board (AIB) resulted in workers and homeowners being exposed to asbestos fibres.

Ipswich Magistrates’ Court heard that Columbus Building Contractors Ltd had been hired to undertake a kitchen conversion and garage extension at a home in the town.

The existing integral garage used AIB as a fire break between it and the rest of the house, but rather than hire a licensed asbestos contractor to remove and dispose of the boards, workmen pulled them out, broke them up and left them on the front lawn.

AIB debris was then placed in open bags and taken to the local tip by the homeowner in his car.

Staff at the tip identified the substance as asbestos and a licensed contractor had to be hired to conduct a full environmental clean of the property.

Following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Columbus Building Contractors Ltd was charged with breaching regulations 8(1) and 11(1)(a) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

It pleaded guilty to both breaches and was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay a further £6,000 in costs.

HSE Inspector Adam Hills described the incident as preventable and questioned why Columbus Building Contractors Ltd had taken such a lax approach to safety when it had knowledge of asbestos.

“They questioned the presence of asbestos materials in the ceiling but made no efforts to obtain an asbestos survey or take samples for analysis to establish if asbestos was contained within the ceiling,” he said.

“It is absolutely essential that assumptions are not made when dealing with suspected asbestos materials. If in doubt, get it checked by a professional before starting any work.”

To find out more about asbestos surveys or removal and disposal of AIB by a licensed contractor, please contact BLS Asbestos.

Published: 23rd May 2014