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Suffolk firm in court after homeowners exposed to asbestos

Date:
20 May 2014

A Suffolk building contractor has been fined after it exposed workers and homeowners to potentially fatal asbestos material during work on a garage extension at a home in Ipswich.

Columbus Building Contractors Ltd was hired by the homeowners to carry out a single-storey front garage extension and a kitchen conversion to the property.

Ipswich Magistrates’ Court heard today (20 May) that the garage, an integral part of the home, had an asbestos insulating board (AIB) ceiling that formed a fire break between it and the rest of the house. During the conversion work between 8 May and 2 August 2012, the boards were removed, broken up and left on the homeowners’ front lawn.

The debris was then placed into open bags before one of the homeowners transported it to the local tip in his car where the possibility of asbestos was identified.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated and prosecuted the company for breaching asbestos safety regulations.

The court was told a licensed contractor had to undertake waste removal of the remaining asbestos material and conduct an environmental clean under fully-controlled conditions.

Columbus Building Contractors Ltd, of Crofton Road, Ipswich, Suffolk, was fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay £6,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching regulations 8(1) and 11(1)(a) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Adam Hills said:

“This is an incident that was entirely preventable. Columbus Building Contractors had worked with this type of material before and had asbestos knowledge. They questioned the presence of asbestos materials in the ceiling but made no efforts to obtain an asbestos survey or take samples for analysis to establish if asbestos was contained within the ceiling.

“After removal, the asbestos material was simply left on the front lawn before being bagged in open sacks and transported to the local tip by the homeowner. Both the workers and homeowner would have been exposed to a significant amount of asbestos fibres during these works.

“It is absolutely essential that assumptions are not made when dealing with suspected asbestos materials. If in doubt, get it checked by a professional before starting any work.

“The dangers of exposure are well-known in the industry. There are long-term health risks associated with inhalation of asbestos fibres including lung cancer and mesothelioma.”

Further information on how to reduce the risk of asbestos can be found on the HSE website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/index.htm

Notes to Editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to prevent 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 8(1) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 states: “An employer must hold a licence granted under paragraph (2) before undertaking any licensable work with asbestos.”
  3. Regulation 11(1)(a) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 states:  “Every employer must prevent the exposure to asbestos of any employee employed by that employer so far as is reasonably practicable.”
  4. HSE news releases are available at press.hse.gov.uk.

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