2 April 2013
The owner of a former Burton upon Trent brewery and the sub-contractor on a project to refurbish it have been prosecuted after a catalogue of safety failings was uncovered surrounding the unsafe removal of asbestos.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into Optima (Cambridge) Ltd, the building’s owner and principal contractor on the refurbishment, and self-employed Dominik Jaslowski, who was acting as site manager, also revealed that workers were living in the building and one had contracted Legionnaire’s disease.
Burton upon Trent magistrates heard HSE received a complaint in January 2010 from a member of the public that asbestos-containing material had been removed from within the building and walled up in the basement. HSE identified a significant area of the building as being contaminated and a licensed asbestos removal contractor later dealt with some 27 tonnes of the dangerous materials.
HSE issued a Prohibition Notice halting all work and a Direction to Leave Undisturbed against Optima (Cambridge) Ltd on 29 January 2010.
The court was told that on 5 November 2010, HSE was informed a workman had been diagnosed with Legionnaire’s disease and that workers had been using the building as overnight accommodation.
A site visit with Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service discovered no fire safety risk assessment had been carried out, inadequate fire alarm and detection systems, obstructed escape routes, inadequate signage of emergency routes, no emergency lighting and insufficient evacuation procedures.
Three prohibition notices were served against Optima (Cambridge) Limited and two against Dominik Jaslowski preventing further use of the building as overnight accommodation and any further construction work. A further notice was also served against the company preventing further use of the hot water system and showers.
HSE’s inspection also discovered that four large holes had been cut into the first and second floors. The voids on the first floor were not adequately protected to prevent a fall of several metres to the ground below.
Optima (Cambridge) Ltd, of St Saviours Wharf, Mill Street, Southwark, London, pleaded guilty to breaching:
- Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, for failing to protect those not in their employment;
- Regulations 9(1) and 41 of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, for failing to ensure arrangements made for managing the project were suitable and for failing to ensure the provision of fire fighting equipment, fire detection systems and alarms.
- Regulations 6(1), and 8(1) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006, for failing to carry out a risk assessment and failing to hold a licence to remove asbestos
- Regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations for failing to take measures to prevent a fall and
- Regulation 7(1) of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 for failing to prevent or adequately control exposure to legionella.
On Thursday 28 March the company was fined a total of £63,000 and ordered to pay costs of £16,000.
Dominik Jaslowski, 32, of Patrick Road, Newham, London, pleaded guilty to breaching two counts of Regulation 13(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 Regulations for failing to plan, manage and monitor construction work.
He was given a three month prison sentence for each offence, to run concurrently, suspended for 12 months. He was also ordered to carry out 200 hours unpaid community work and pay costs of £3,500.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector David Brassington said:
“Our investigations uncovered a whole catalogue of serious errors and safety failings.
“This was a shocking case of failing to plan, manage and resource this refurbishment project which led to workers being exposed to a range of significant health and safety risks.
“Asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK, accounting for around 4500 fatalities a year. Building owners and contractors have a duty to ensure they protect their workers from risk of exposure. Optima (Cambridge) Ltd failed in that duty by showing a shocking disregard for the dangers of this hidden killer.
“As site manager Mr Jaslowski should have planned, managed and monitored the construction work. He should not have left workers at risk the way he did.
“Buildings undergoing refurbishment should not be used for overnight accommodation. Dutyholders should assess the risk of legionella from hot and cold water systems within buildings undergoing refurbishment and ensure these risks are managed.”
Notes to editors
- The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce 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
- The full text of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 can be found at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1974/37/contents
- The full text of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 can be found at www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2007/320/contents/made
- The full text of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 can be found at www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2006/2739/contents/made
- The full text of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 can be found at www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2005/735/contents/made
- The full text of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 can be found at www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2002/2677/contents/made