Barroerock Construction Limited has been fined £750,000 after two separate HSE inspections revealed failures to protect workers from asbestos. The company was converting a former nine storey office building in Ashford, Kent into flats.
Canterbury Crown Court heard that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out two investigations at the site in 2013 and 2014. The court was told that the company had failed to act upon recommendations following a routine inspection during an HSE refurbishment campaign, resulting in up to 40 workers being exposed to asbestos during the project's early demolition phase.
The second investigation was in June 2014, following complaints about health and safety practices at the site. It was found that a licensed asbestos contractor had been engaged to remove the remaining asbestos, yet dangerous practices were continuing. In addition, the company was unable to provide documentation proving that asbestos materials identified in the survey had been correctly removed. Work on site was halted for the second time with about 160 people working inside the building.
Barroerock Construction Limited of Langley House Park Road, East Finchley, London had pleaded guilty to two offences of breaching Regulation 22 (1) (a) of the Construction Design and Management Regulations 2007 at an earlier hearing. As well as the £750,000 fine they were ordered to pay costs of £14,874.68.
HSE inspector Melvyn Stancliffe said:
“The company’s failings in this case... put many workers at risk to the exposure of asbestos...there was an endemic failure to effectively manage the construction work...in a way which ensured that asbestos materials were not disturbed until removed under appropriate conditions. Failing to prevent the breathing in of asbestos fibres on the site is reckless.”
Phoenix comments: Despite previous warnings from the HSE, Barroerock Construction Limited continued to expose a high number of people to asbestos fibres. Asbestos kills around 5000 workers every year in the UK - more than the number of people killed on the roads. Around 20 tradesmen die each week as a result of past exposure. When materials that contain asbestos are disturbed or damaged, fibres are released into the air and can cause serious diseases if inhaled. The duty to manage asbestos is contained in regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. It requires the dutyholder to take reasonable steps to find out if there are materials containing asbestos. They must maintain a record of the location and condition of the asbestos, assess the risk of anyone being exposed to fibres, prepare a detailed plan for managing the risks, and inform anyone who is likely to disturb them about the location and condition of the materials.