Asbestos management plan and worker awareness training absent
Birmingham Glass Services Ltd and Equitas Academies Trust have been prosecuted after failing to properly manage refurbishment works and exposing workers to asbestos in June 2012.
Magistrates in Birmingham heard (14 November) that Equitas Academies Trust (owner and operator of Aston Manor Academy) undertook a project in the spring and summer of 2012 to replace old windows at the academy. The school appointed Birmingham Glass Services Ltd (BGS) to carry out the work.
The court hear four BGS workers did not receive an induction by Equitas Academies Trust and information was not provided on the location of any asbestos containing materials (ACMs). The school site manager told the BGSs that ‘to the best of his knowledge’ there were no ACM’s in the window area.
AIB removed with a crowbar
During removal of the windows BGS employees encountered strips of asbestos insulating board (AIB) packers, which prevented them from installing the new windows. The packers were removed from the frame using a crowbar. The material ‘snapped’ and was deposited next to an asbestos decontamination unit on the school site being used for unrelated work by licensed asbestos removal contractors.
HSE found that the workmen were not provided with :
- information where asbestos could be found in the building;
- asbestos awareness training; and
- suitable RPE and PPE.
The men were exposed to loose asbestos fibres while removing the asbestos packers and breaking them into pieces. Magistrates also heard there were no emergency procedures in place for the employees if asbestos was disturbed.
The incident cost the school £20,000 through decontamination and replacement of floor coverings. Soft furnishings and children’s work had to be disposed of and parts of the school could not be used for the second part of the summer term.
Building owners and contractors must provide protect
Birmingham Glass Services Ltd, of West Heath, Birmingham, was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £1,969 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
Equitas Academies Trust, of Aston, Birmingham, was fined £7,500 with £3,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
After the hearing HSE inspector Paul Thompson said:
“This incident would have been avoided had the academy put procedures in place to ensure that relevant parties understood their duties around minimising the risk of asbestos exposure inside the school.
Although the school had not been under local authority control since 2011, it failed to ensure employees and management received adequate training to make up for the loss of local authority support and ensure that a suitable asbestos management plan was in place.
By not providing asbestos awareness training to their operatives and not taking steps to ensure that they had information on where asbestos was in the premises before works commenced, Birmingham Glass Services Ltd failed in their duty to protect their employees and members of the public from potential exposure to asbestos.
Workers exposed to asbestos could have posed a health risk to others in the long term, even their families and loved ones, by taking home their contaminated clothing.
Asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK. Building owners and contractors have a duty to ensure they protect their workers from risk of exposure. Equitas Academies Trust and Birmingham Glass Services Ltd failed to do so.”