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    CLIENT AND DIRECTOR FINED OVER ASBESTOS BREACHES

    AIB disposed as AC on refurb project despite asbestos survey warning

    Avon Freight Group Ltd (AFG), managing director Simon Poole and builder Ronald McPhee have all been prosecuted for “putting at least 20 people at risk of lung disease from asbestos fibres” during refurbishment work in Redditch.

    Architects engaged by AFG commissioned a survey and identified asbestos insulation board (AIB) in partition walls. The company wished to demolish the walls and obtained estimates for removal of the asbestos from three licensed contractors.

    Worcester Crown Court heard Simon Poole, AFG MD, instructed the builder to carry out the work even though he did not have a licence. Some 1.5 tonnes of AIB was removed and disposed of as asbestos cement (AC), which can be removed without a licence. 

    Five months later asbestos debris was discovered and HSE was alerted. Investigations revealed contamination with asbestos fibres requiring decontamination by a specialist licensed asbestos contractor.

    HSE investigators found that at least 20 people – including contract workers on the project, employees of AFG and workers for a tenant who had been using the site for storage, could have inhaled asbestos fibres during the five months.

    Appalling failings by the company and two individuals

    Avon Freight Group Ltd, Simon Poole and Ronald McPhee pleaded guilty to breaching HSW Act Section 3(1) and were fined £30,000, £30,000  and £2,500 respectively plus costs £26,147, £26,147 costs and £500.

    Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Tariq Khan said:

    “As a result of the appalling failings of the company and two individuals concerned, at least 20 people now have to live with the knowledge they have been exposed to asbestos. This type of exposure could cause life-threatening illnesses in years to come but because it takes so long to develop, these people will be left with years of uncertainty.

    AFG and Simon Poole knew that AIB was present in the walls and presumably knew they should get an appropriately qualified person to dispose of it, having received estimates from three properly licensed contractors. Regardless of safety, they instructed Ronald MacPhee to remove it.

    Mr MacPhee should never have carried out the work, and his partial removal of the asbestos insulation board left the site in an even less safe state than before, as it was contaminated with fibres. It is no excuse to claim ignorance of the law, especially as there is a wealth of advice and information available from HSE free of charge.”

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