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Council and decorating firm prosecuted for asbestos failings

Date:
31 October 2013

North Warwickshire Borough Council and a Birmingham decorating firm have been fined after workers were exposed to potentially-deadly asbestos fibres.

Leamington Spa Magistrates’ Court was told today (31 October) that the council was refurbishing its community centre in Eastlang Road, Fillongley, on 13 March 2012 when it sent its contractor, Intal Decorators Limited, to remove asbestos insulation board.

The material should have been removed under controlled conditions by a licensed contractor. Instead it was spread around the site by the decorating firm’s staff.

The matter came to light when other tradesmen on the site realised what was happening and reported the situation to managers, which led to a visit from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

HSE’s subsequent investigation revealed the council had undertaken a survey detailing the presence of asbestos but had failed to pass information on to Intal Decorators Limited.

The firm had also failed to carry out its own assessment of the insulation boards to check whether asbestos was present.

North Warwickshire Borough Council, of South Street, Atherstone, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 for failing to provide sufficient information and instruction to its contractors regarding the presence, nature and scope of work involving asbestos. It was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,200.

Intal Decorators Limited, of Rough Road, Birmingham, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 5 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 for removing asbestos-containing materials without carrying out an assessment. It was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay a further £500 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Paul Cooper said:

“Refurbishment and demolition work must be planned and carefully thought through, especially where asbestos may be present. It is reasonable to expect North Warwickshire Borough Council to have planned its work in such a way that workers were not put at risk of exposure to this deadly material.

 “Intal Decorators Limited should have undertaken an assessment of the risks involved in its activities at the community centre and fulfilled its responsibilities as a contractor and employer to protect those on site.

 “As a result of these failures Intal employees, and potentially other tradesmen on site, were exposed to harmful asbestos fibres.” 

Notes to editors

1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It  does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk

2. Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”

3. Regulation 5 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 states: “An employer must not undertake work in demolition, maintenance or any other work which exposes or is liable to expose employees of that employer to asbestos in respect of any premises unless that employer has carried out a suitable and sufficient assessment as to whether asbestos, what type of asbestos, contained in what material and in what condition is present or is liable to be present in those premises; or if there is doubt as to whether asbestos is present in those premises, that employer assumes that asbestos is present, and that it is not chrysotile alone, and observes the applicable provisions of these Regulations.”

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