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COMMUNICATIONS FAILURE TRIGGERED ASBESTOS EXPOSURE

PC fined over deficient CDM health and plan and asbestos blunder

Gardner Mechanical Services Ltd has been fined after two workmen were “unwittingly exposed” to asbestos fibres at Reading University. The company was contracted to undertake a mechanical services upgrade in a room at the university.

Reading Magistrates heard (8 October) that on 2 September 2009 two sub-contractor staff drilled through a sprayed asbestos ceiling coating. The men had not been made aware that asbestos was in the room and thought all asbestos material had been removed by specialist contractors prior to their work starting.

HSE investigators found that as CDM 2007 principal contractor Gardner Mechanical Services was aware that asbestos-containing materials were to be left on the site. However, the information was not relayed to others in a reliable way.

The company also failed to ensure the asbestos was removed from the site before work started.

Incident highlights importance of effective planning during refurb work

Gardner Mechanical Services Ltd, of Wokingham, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 and Regulation 23(1)(a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. The firm was fined a total of £28,000 and ordered to pay £22,631 in costs.

After the hearing HSE inspector Adam Wycherley said:

“This case highlights the importance of effective planning when addressing risks in construction, particularly in refurbishment, where there is a higher risk of coming into contact with asbestos.

Gardner Mechanical Services had a clear duty of care to relay important information to its subcontractors in order to prevent their exposure to asbestos, but this simply did not happen.

As a result of poor planning on the part of GMS, two men were exposed to high levels of asbestos fibres, leaving them at risk of contracting serious diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis of the lungs”

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