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BUILDERS FAILED TO CHECK FOR ASBESTOS PRESENCE

Self-employed builders fined after exposing themselves and others to asbestos

G Builders (Harnek Ram and Gulzar Singh T/A) have been prosecuted after they “illegally removed and broke up” asbestos panels from a home in Birmingham during May 2012.

Birmingham Magistrates heard (4 July) that the householder received a grant from Birmingham City Council to convert his garage into a bedroom and bathroom for his disabled father. As part of the grant process, samples were taken on behalf of the City Council to test for asbestos and the results revealed asbestos was present.

HSE investigators found that by the time the test results were known, Mr Ram and Mr Singh had already broken up the asbestos insulating boards (AIBs) despite neither man holding the necessary licence. The men did not carry out, or ask to see, an asbestos survey, before any demolition or refurbishment work is undertaken.

The action caused spread of asbestos fibres putting the householders, themselves and others at risk of inhaling fibres. The subsequent clean-up of the site cost the City Council more than £6,500.

Demonstrated a complete disregard for the law

Mr Harnek Ram of Handsworth, and Mr Gulzar Singh, of Smethwick, both pleaded guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Mr Harnek Ram was fined a total of £2,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,200. Mr Gulzar Singh was also fined £2,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,200.

Speaking after the prosecution, HSE Inspector Gareth Langston said:

“Inhaling asbestos fibres can cause mesothelioma, which is always fatal, and other life-threatening conditions. More than 4,000 people die every year from asbestos-related diseases.”

An estimated 70% of properties contain asbestos. It is illegal to undertake any work which will disturb the fabric of the building without carrying out and obtaining the results of an asbestos survey.

The type of work being undertaken in Handsworth should have been carried out by a builder who holds the necessary licence, in a safe manner and with the necessary control measures. Instead, Mr Ram and Mr Singh exposed the householders and others – including themselves – to potentially harmful airborne asbestos fibres. They also demonstrated a complete disregard for the law.”

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