A Suffolk building company has been fined for removing asbestos insulation board without a licence, for putting its workers at risk of Asbestos contamination and for failing to protect its workers from falls of up to four metres at a farm building in Waltham, Essex.

Workers were potentially exposed to dangerous asbestos fibres and only provided with baby wipes or access to a hose for decontamination.

Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court heard the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was alerted by a member of the public concerned that unsafe work was being undertaken at the farm building.

The HSE’s investigation found that the building company did not have a licence permitting it to remove asbestos, despite telling the farm owner it held the necessary approvals. None of the workers were trained to work with licensed asbestos and were also placed in danger of falling from height while removing the fragile asbestos boards.

The HSE found that the work, carried out in February 2014, was “woefully lacking” in safety measures. Asbestos insulating boards were broken from their fixings with wholly inadequate attempts to prevent the uncontrolled release of fibres. There was no use of an enclosure and the respiratory protective equipment provided to workers offered insufficient protection.

Instead of a full three-stage decontamination unit required for such work, the workers only had access to baby wipes and the farm’s cold water hose. Contaminated overalls over normal clothing continued to be worn while the workers took their lunch break on site and also meant they could have taken asbestos contamination home with them each night.

The investigation also identified the workers were at risk of falls of up to four metres owing to absent or inadequately installed safety netting and a harness and inertia reel being used inappropriately.

The Suffolk building company was fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,365.50 plus a £120 victim surcharge after pleading guilty to separate breaches of the Work at Height Regulations and the Control of Asbestos Regulations.