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Architects' failure risked workers lives

Date:
4 February 2013

An architects’ practice has been prosecuted after builders were potentially exposed to dangerous asbestos fibres during construction work at Aberystwyth Rugby Club in Mid Wales.

Aberystwyth Magistrates today (4 February) heard that Dilwyn Roberts Penseiri/Architects Ltd failed to pass on vital information about the presence of asbestos insulation board to builders before they removed soffits from an end wall at the clubhouse in January 2012.

The situation came to light during a routine inspection of the work by a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector, who found remains of damaged asbestos insulation boards on the gable end of the clubhouse.

A subsequent HSE investigation found that Dilwyn Roberts Penseiri/Architects Ltd had been appointed to design and oversee the work at the clubhouse and to act as the Construction, Design and Management Co-ordinator for the project.

Although an asbestos survey was commissioned by the rugby club and sent to the architects, this was never shown to the building contractors even though it clearly identified the presence of asbestos insulation board.

When the work was tendered in August 2011, the practice prepared the pre-construction information and advised that an asbestos survey had identified asbestos cement in the soffits, but failed to mention the asbestos insulating board.

Unlike asbestos cement products, asbestos insulation board requires removal by licenced companies under strictly controlled conditions.

In January 2012, the building contractor removed the soffits on the end wall but had not recognised the material as asbestos boards.

Dilwyn Roberts Penseiri/Architects Ltd of High Street, Newtown, Powys, pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 3(1) of The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £5,400 and ordered to pay £2,917 in costs.

HSE Inspector Phil Nicolle, speaking after the hearing, said:

"Construction Design and Management Co-ordinators are required to identify and collect pre-construction information for projects. It should contain all information relevant to the health and safety of people engaged in, affected by the work or using the building as a future workplace.

"Dilwyn Roberts Penseiri/Architects Ltd failed to pass on vital survey information, which they were aware of, resulting in a construction worker being exposed to asbestos fibres.

"Asbestos-related diseases kill more people than any other single work-related cause. The danger arises when asbestos fibres become airborne. They form a very fine dust. Breathing asbestos dust can cause serious damage to the lungs and cause cancer."

For information on safe working with asbestos visit www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos

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.

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