At Guildford Crown Court on 13th January 2014, Buxton Building Contractors Ltd was fined for failing to plan, manage and properly monitor the construction work at the Woldingham Girls’ School in Caterham, Surrey.
In 2011, the firm was the principal contractor for a scheme to remodel the school’s dining area and kitchen. The firm commissioned an asbestos survey on the undercroft part of the building, which has been omitted from a previous asbestos report, and the survey identified the presence of asbestos in that part of the building.
Despite the findings, the firm allowed different contractors, including a 19 year old apprentice, to work in the area until one worker broke through the ceiling and exposed asbestos insulation boarding.
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation was carried out and found the survey had identified the presence of asbestos, but the firm had failed to act to deal with it or provide safeguards on site.
Buxton Building Contractors Ltd admitted breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £26,217 in costs.
This case illustrates the continued need to ensure that companies and employers are fully aware of their duties to plan, manage and properly monitor construction work. It is not enough to commission an asbestos survey. Companies need to act upon any asbestos findings to protect against the unnecessary exposure to asbestos dust. The HSE has recently issued revised guidance on managing and controlling asbestos and an Approved Code of Practice and companies are urged to follow the guidance to ensure they work safely with asbestos.
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