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Bath building contractors exposed workers to deadly asbestos dust

Date:
19 March 2014

A Bath building contractor exposed two of its employees to asbestos dust while working at a residential property in the city, a court heard today (19 March).

Geoff Thomas and Son Ltd allowed the workmen to demolish a basement ceiling without adequately checking for the presence of asbestos and sent the pair to work on other jobs without decontaminating their clothes when working at the property in New King Street in January 2013.

The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which prosecuted the company at Bath Magistrates.

The court heard that Geoff Thomas and Son had been contracted by Curo Places Ltd (formerly Somer Community Housing Trust), to replace the ceiling. The two employees carried out the job using hand tools and pulled parts of the ceiling – made of asbestos insulation board – down by hand.

When it was identified that the ceiling may contain asbestos, it sent the workers off to do other jobs without decontaminating their clothes or tools. It was later found the ceiling did contain asbestos.

HSE’s investigation found the contractors failed to make suitable and sufficient assessment for the presence of asbestos before work started and failed to prevent its spread.

Geoff Thomas and Son Ltd of Braysdown, Peasedown St John, Bath pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and was fined a total of £5,000 and ordered to pay costs of £637.

HSE Inspector Paul Newton, speaking after the hearing, said:

“The long-term effects of exposure to asbestos materials is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK and the exposure of these two workers to this dangerous substance was entirely preventable.

“It was clear the work would disturb the fabric of the building, creating a risk of exposing asbestos, so a full survey of the area should have been carried out before work started and suitable plans put in place to deal with it.

“Geoff Thomas and Son then compounded the problem by failing to decontaminate the workers, their clothes and equipment. Instead they were allowed to go to other jobs and return home, potentially spreading the asbestos to their workmates and families.

“The removal of high-risk, asbestos-containing materials should only be done by a licensed contractor.”

Further information about working on asbestos can be found on the HSE website at http://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. 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.”
  3. Regulation 16 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 states:  “Every employer must prevent or, where this is not reasonably practicable, reduce to the lowest level reasonably practicable the spread of asbestos from any place where work under the employer’s control is carried out.”

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