The contractor and the property owner was sentenced after pleading guilty to offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The prosecution came about after a proactive inspection by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which shows that the risk of prosecution when no actual reported exposure has taken place.
Briefly, the law on managing asbestos is contained within the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. This requires a duty holder to manage asbestos by monitoring whether there is asbestos present and determining issues such as whether if it has been disturbed and required action to seal it or restrict access to it or to determine whether works need to be commenced for the removal of the asbestos. Duty holders are the owners of non-domestic premises (for example industrial, commercial or public buildings including those ‘common’ areas of domestic premises such as flats or houses converted into flats) or the person or organisation that has clear responsibility for the maintenance or repair of non-domestic premises, for example through an agreement or contract.
Asbestos surveys are required by law to determine the presence of any asbestos before any works are commenced on buildings. In the case referred to above, asbestos surveys were completed and they identified the presence of Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) however, these were not removed prior to the work. The building contractors were appointed whilst the property owner stripped asbestos from within the former hotel. This was not undertaken in a safe manner. Due to the extent of the spread of asbestos dust and debris throughout the building, whilst works were ongoing then it was deemed that workers and visitors to the properties were at risk of exposure to asbestos fibres.
Co-operation and the sharing of information with those that may come into contact is fundamental in this case and is required by the Regulations. The lack of sharing information is one of the main reasons there was deemed to be a risk in this case to workers and visitors to the properties.
Both the property owner and the contractor (B And SBM Limited) pleaded guilty and were sentenced in the case of the contractor to £22,000 and ordered to pay £5,000 in costs and the property owner was ordered to carry out 120 hours unpaid work in the community and ordered to pay costs of £7,500.
The above identifies again that work, including renovation work, to properties should be taken carefully and planned effectively with a clear step by step containment of any asbestos that may be identified. Clear steps should be considered as follows:
- Identification of any asbestos needs to be completed by way of survey and any other enquiries;
- Decide what to do with it by way of a suitable action plan;
- If necessary, instruct specialist contractors to remove/isolate the asbestos;
- Makes persons aware of the presence of asbestos. This could be residents/employees/other contractors/ any other visitors.
It is a misconception that is it only properties which are exceptionally old may contain asbestos, this is not the case and do not make that mistake when considering works on buildings. Asbestos can be found in any industrial or residential building built or refurbished before the year 2000 and even this date is no guarantee, the duty is on you as a duty holder to satisfy yourself.
If there are any concerns that you may have in relation to asbestos and it’s management, then please do not hesitate to contact Sarah: firstname.lastname@example.org.