A Battersea building firm has been fined for failing to highlight the known presence of asbestos insulating board (AIB) at a warehouse site – exposing a foreman and other staff members to potential harm when it was ripped out during the refurbishment work.
The building firm was in possession of a detailed asbestos survey that clearly identified the location of the asbestos wall panels inside the building. However, the survey wasn’t shared with the site team, so when a foreman mistook the AIB for asbestos cement – a lower risk material – it was removed without adequate control measures and protective equipment.
The communication breakdown was identified by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted the firm after investigating the contamination of the warehouse with asbestos in December 2011.
Reading Magistrates’ Court heard that AIB should only be removed by a licensed asbestos contractor because of the risk of exposure to the dangerous fibres contained within it. The HSE established that the site foreman wasn’t provided with any documentation or other information about the panels. This was despite an asbestos survey being completed just two months prior to the work starting.
Because the foreman was unaware that the panels were made from AIB, the wrong kind of control measures were in place when he removed them. He and others could therefore have unwittingly inhaled the deadly asbestos fibres.
The Building firm was fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay £2,857 in costs after pleading guilty to two separate breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.