Failure to manage asbestos leads to substantial fine for construction firm
10 May 2017
News of a London building firm being fined £750,000 last week following two offences related to asbestos exposure has sharpened calls for proper training within industry.
Canterbury Crown Court heard how the HSE led two investigations into working practices in 2013 and 2014 at a site in Ashford, Kent, where Barroerock was converting a nine-storey office building - known to contain asbestos - into flats.
The first investigation came about from a routine inspection during an HSE refurbishment campaign and established that while a refurbishment and demolition survey had been carried out, the contractor had failed to act upon its findings. This led to up to 40 workers being exposed to asbestos during the early demolition phase of the project.
Dangerous practices continued
Following complaints being made about health and safety practices at the site, a second investigation culminated in a site visit in June 2014, where it was found that in spite of engaging a licensed asbestos contractor to remove the remaining asbestos materials, dangerous practices were continuing. Furthermore, the company could not produce documentation to demonstrate the asbestos materials identified in the survey had been removed correctly. Work on site was halted, at a time when roughly 160 individuals were working inside the building.
Both HSE investigations found that these incidents could have been prevented if Barroerock had ensured implemented effective management controls to avoid the risk of exposure to asbestos.
Barroerock Construction Ltd of East Finchley, London, pleaded guilty to two offences of breaching Regulation 22 (1) (a) of the Construction Design & Management Regulations 2007. They were fined £750,000 and ordered to pay costs of £14,874.68.
"Failure is reckless"
Following the hearing, HSE inspector Melvyn Stancliffe said: "The company's failings in this case has put many workers at risk to the exposure of asbestos. It was clear there was an endemic failture to effectively manage the construction work on the site in a way which ensured that asbestos materials were not disturbed until removed under appropriate conditions. Failure to prevent the breathing in of asbestos fibres on this site is reckless."
It is estimated that asbestos causes around 5,000 deaths every year. Training is vital in order to mitigate the risk of working with asbestos. Download DTL's free eBook for further information: