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COUNCIL PROSECUTED OVER FAILURE TO MANAGE ASBESTOS

Pre-demolition ‘clear and strip’ failed to consider known asbestos presence

Stockton on Tees Borough Council has been fined for putting workers at risk of exposure to asbestos during clearance work on premises in Stockton prior to demolition in May 2010.

A survey of the building was carried out in April 2010 which identified areas that contained asbestos. Teesside Magistrates’ Court heard (2 July) that prior to demolition a “clear and strip” buildings was carried out by council workers over the weekend of 29-31 May 2010.

The eight-strong team removed fixtures and fittings, including doors, seating and a kitchen, and all debris and rubble was swept up, transferred to a refuse vehicle and transported to a landfill site for disposal.

When a contractor was appointed to carry out the asbestos removal and demolition it was discovered that the “clear and strip” had disturbed the fabric of the building and items asbestos had been disturbed or removed in eight areas. The issue was reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in October 2010.

HSE investigators found:

  • Assessment: failure to assess the risk created by the presence of asbestos;
  • Plan of work: chance the workers exposure to asbestos yet no plan of work agreed;
  • Awareness: workers not told asbestos was present and received no awareness training;
  • Competence: those organising the work lacked the necessary competence to do so;
  • Spread: failure to prevent or reduce the spread of asbestos; and
  • Disposal: measures not taken to ensure the safe disposal of debris.
Councils need system to ensure asbestos is properly managed in their properties

Stockton on Tees Borough Council, of Municipal Buildings, Church Road, Stockton, was fined a total of £20,000 and ordered to pay £5,555.60 costs after it pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.

After the case, HSE inspector Natalie Wright, said:

“Stockton on Tees Borough Council failed to ensure that a suitable and sufficient assessment was made of the risk created by the presence of asbestos in this building, and therefore did not take the steps required in order to comply with the regulations.

Instead the members of the ‘Care For Your Area’ team were potentially exposed to asbestos fibres, something which was entirely preventable.

The council also failed to prevent or reduce the spread of asbestos as no measures were taken to dispose of the waste safely and the workers returned home in their uniforms each day, potentially spreading any asbestos even further.

This prosecution should act as a reminder to others that they need a system in place to ensure that asbestos is properly managed in their properties.”

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