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CONTRACTOR FINED HEAVILY OVER ASBESTOS ERRORS

Asbestos safety rules ignored during school refurb project asbestosdebris1

Buxton Building Contractors Ltd has been fined £50,000 for “ignoring asbestos safety rules” after the material was discovered in a basement area at a girls school in Caterham in July 2011.

The firm was carrying out refurbishment work at the school in 2011 and commissioned a survey to identify the presence of asbestos in the undercroft part of the building. However, the company failed to act when the results were found to be positive for asbestos.

Guildford Crown court was told that the company was the appointed principal contractor for a scheme to remodel the school dining area and kitchen. The firm had asked a surveyor to look specifically at the undercroft area as it had been omitted from an earlier asbestos report.

HSE found that the survey highlighted the presence of asbestos yet the firm failed to act either to deal with it or to provide any safeguards.

There was unrestricted access by workers to the undercroft for at least two weeks before a workman discovered asbestos insulation board. The area was immediately sealed off by a licensed asbestos contractor.

Firm failed to read or disregarded the survey

Buxton Building Contractors Ltd, of Caterham, Surrey, was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £26,217 after admitting a breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by failing to plan, manage and properly monitor the construction work at the school.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Melvyn Stancliffe said:

asbestosdebris1“This was a serious failing on the part of the company. Having correctly commissioned an asbestos survey, it looks as though no one at Buxton Contractors Ltd bothered to read it. Or if they did, they disregarded its contents and failed to act to protect site workers from exposure to what is one of the deadly killers in the construction industry.

As a result, several people, including the young apprentice, were unnecessarily exposed to the risk of inhaling asbestos fibres.  One can only wish and hope that there are no serious consequences for these workers in the future.

It is vital that companies are fully aware of not just the duty to get an asbestos survey done, but then to act on its findings. There is considerable guidance freely available from HSE to assist duty-holders deal with asbestos materials properly.”

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