On 6 February 2014 at Bedlington Magistrates’ Court in Northumberland a housing trust, and two firms hired to carry out refurbishment work at its premises in Alnwick, were fined a total of £22,000 after staff and residents were put at risk of exposure to asbestos.
The Anchor Trust provides housing and care for the elderly. In November 2012, they contracted West Yorkshire firm Express Elevators Ltd to replace the lift at St Paul’s Court sheltered housing scheme. PC Lifts, of London, was subcontracted to remove the existing lift ahead of the new one being installed.
At court, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) said that as the client, Anchor had a duty to ensure that suitable arrangements had been made for the work to be undertaken and that no health risks were involved.
The lift shaft contained asbestos boards and although an asbestos survey was carried out by Anchor, it was not sufficiently detailed enough for the work being undertaken. The contractors did not refer to the survey or make adequate enquiries about the asbestos themselves but relied only on conflicting verbal information provided by Anchor.
The HSE investigation found that due to a combined failure of all three parties, the asbestos boards were removed with no measures put in place to prevent the spread of asbestos fibres. This exposed residents and others to a potential risk to their health.
The Anchor Trust pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 9(1)(a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. Express Elevators Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 13(2) of the same legislation.
PC Lifts Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 16 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.
All parties were fined a total of £22,000 and ordered to pay costs totalling £1,520.10.
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