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CLIENT AND CONTRACTOR FAILED TO PLAN PROJECT

Lack of CDM appointments and management blunders end in double prosecution

Construction client, Wall Colmonoy Ltd, and contractor, Oaktree Construction (Wales) Ltd have been fined following a “catalogue of errors” by both firms during a demolition and refurbishment project in Swansea during December 2010.

The project involved refurbishment of a building to expand operations. During the project workers were exposed to dangerous asbestos fibres. Neath Magistrates heard (10 January) that the project was badly managed, with untrained staff put in charge of the operation, and was underpinned by inadequate surveys for the presence of asbestos and poor planning throughout.

Appointment of CDM-C and PC not made by client

During the demolition works asbestos insulation board (AIB) covering a steel column was damaged and Wall Colmonoy instructed an employee to tape plastic bags around the column. Work continued with the AIB debris lying on the floor until the visit by an HSE inspector.

HSE investigators found that Wall Colmonoy failed to:

  • CDM Appointmentsappoint a CDM Co-ordinator (CDM-C)  and Principal Contractor (PC) to plan and manage the construction work and ignored advice from its health and safety manager;
  • Assessment – provide a proper assessment of the presence of asbestos and its condition in the building before work started. A licensed asbestos removal contractor had warned the company that the information was inadequate; and
  • Management – no-one involved in the management of the project had the skills, training or experience to address health and safety issues, including the risk of asbestos exposure. 

HSE investigators found that Oaktree failed to:

  • Asbestos – prevent exposure to asbestos and control spread once it had been damaged. A ‘Refurbishment and Demolition Survey’ was not procured; 
  • Assessment – the company risk assessment was inadequate in that it failed to identify the risks from asbestos. A structural assessment of the building was not carried out; and 
  • Training – provide staff with asbestos awareness training despite a recommendation by the HSE in September 2010.

Wall Colmonoy held two asbestos surveys identifing asbestos material and highlighing other areas presumed to contain asbestos. However, work began despite HSE advise to Oaktree that a separate ‘Refurbishment and Demolition Survey’ was required.

Significant failings throughout the management of the project 

Wall Colomony, of Alloy Industrial Estate, Pontardawe, was fined a total of £16,000 and ordered to pay £3,287 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

Oaktree Construction (Wales) Ltd, of Pheasant Road, Trebanos, was fined £8,000 with costs of £2,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Regulations 16 and 11(1) (a) of the of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector, Anne Marie Orrells said:

“Both companies involved in this case demonstrated significant failings throughout the management of the project, which put the lives of their respective workers at risk.

“Demolition and refurbishment work must be properly planned and managed by competent personnel with the right training and experience. Proper structural and asbestos surveys must be made and a full risk assessment carried out for all the work to be undertaken.

“Had a Refurbishment and Demolition survey been undertaken, and had a licensed asbestos contractor been used to removal all asbestos materials prior to the work starting, then the risk would have been eliminated. Instead this inadequate response left workers exposed to asbestos fibres, which can cause potentially fatal lung disease. The health and safety of workers must not be left to chance.”

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