A Teesside council has been fined for putting workers at risk of exposure to asbestos during clearance work of premises prior to demolition.

Stockton on Tees Borough Council acquired the Club premises and decided to demolish it as part of a regeneration project. A survey was carried out in April 2010 that identified areas that contained asbestos.

The Magistrates’ Court heard that it was usual practice to “clear and strip” buildings prior to demolition. This was carried out by one of the council’s “Care For Your Area” teams over a weekend.

The eight-strong team removed most of the fixtures and fittings, including doors, seating and a kitchen, and all debris and rubble was swept up, transferred to a refuse vehicle and transported to a landfill site for disposal.

However, when a contractor was appointed to carry out the asbestos removal and demolition of the building later, it was discovered that the earlier work had disturbed the fabric of the building and some items containing asbestos had already been removed.

A further survey revealed that asbestos had been disturbed or removed in eight areas within the building and the issue was reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

An investigation by HSE found that the council had made a series of serious safety failings. It had had failed to make an assessment of the risk created by the presence of asbestos before the clearance work began. There was a chance the workers could be exposed to asbestos, but no plan of work had been agreed and measures taken to prevent potential exposure were inadequate.

Workers were not told that asbestos was present and had received no asbestos awareness training. Also, the council failed to ensure that those organising the work had the necessary competence to do so.

The council also failed to prevent or reduce the spread of asbestos as employees and others working in the building wore their work uniforms and travelled home in them each day. No measures were taken to ensure the safe disposal of debris from the club; it had been put into a refuse vehicle and disposed of as municipal waste.

Stockton on Tees Borough Council was fined a total of £20,000.