Landlord fined for failing to manage deteriorating asbestos

Tenants of a house in Lincolnshire, including a three year old girl, were exposed to dangerous levels of deadly asbestos dust, a court was told.

A judge at Lincoln Crown Court fined Blankney Estates Ltd, the company which rented the property in Scopwick, after it pleaded guilty to health and safety offences. The court heard it did not manage adequately what were clearly deteriorating asbestos materials, and did not ensure that work within the property to remove an asbestos-lagged tank was properly planned and carried out safely by competent contractors.

The same court also fined plumbing company Michael Grace Ltd and Adam and John Thurlby, who were directors of a family-owned demolition company ART Dismantling Co Ltd. These defendants were prosecuted by HSE for breaching the Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) 2006 when they worked on removing the tank from the house.

Farming company Blankney Estates Ltd, registered address of Pannell House, Charles Street, Leicester, but with its main operations in Lincolnshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £20,000 in costs. HSE said it failed in its Section 3 duty to take reasonable steps to ensure the premises were safe and to ensure that the work to remove the tank was done safely.

Adam Robert Thurlby, of Sandhill Road, Farndon, Newark, Nottinghamshire, and John Thurlby, of Malt Kiln Lane, Eagle Moor, Lincoln, also pleaded guilty. They were each fined £12,500 and were each ordered to pay £7,500 costs for contravening five CAR Regulations while acting as directors of ART Dismantling.

Michael Grace Ltd, registered address of St John Street, London, but trading locally in Lincolnshire, pleaded guilty to three CAR offences and was fined £10,000 plus £5,000 in costs.

November 3, 2015Permalink

Care company fined over asbestos failings

A Hertfordshire based care provider engaged in construction works, has been fined after it admitted unsafe working practices, including failure to remove asbestos materials from the old buildings before demolition work.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) received a complaint in March 2014 from a member of the public living close to the former hospital site on Hospital Hill, Chesham, Buckinghamshire concerning activities going on at the premises.

Upon attending, HSE inspectors noted the former Chesham Community Hospital buildings had been partially demolished by a contractor. However, on enquiring with the client, Chesham Care Ltd, it was discovered that removal of asbestos containing materials (ACM’s) had not taken place prior to demolition.

High Wycombe Magistrates’ Court, heard Chesham Care Ltd, a provider of nursing and rehabilitation services, was acting as the ‘client’ for the project, but as it had failed to appoint a principal contractor/construction design and management (CDM) co-ordinator in writing, by law it had assumed the associated legal duties and roles.

When HSE inspectors arrived, among the catalogue of failings, they found the works had been going on for around 2-3 months and observed asbestos containing materials among demolished building debris, demolition arrangements not recorded in writing, the site not securely locked or with relevant warning signs and no welfare facilities present on site.

In HSE’s opinion there was also a serious risk of injury from collapse of partially demolished buildings.

Chesham Care Limited’s registered business address is St Catherine’s Road, Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. The firm admitted multiple failures of the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2007 and was fined a total of £35,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1321.60.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Rauf Ahmed said: “Clients have a key role in safely directing construction project. Effective arrangements at the start can have an amplified positive impact down the various stages to completion. These include making informed appointments, such as designers, principal contractors/contractors using competent sources of health and safety assistance.

November 3, 2015Permalink

Asbestos Identified within church organ blower box

Asbestos panelling has been used throughout the 1960′s and 70′s to line the blower box of church organs. In order to identify if the organ blower box contains asbestos it is necessary to remove the cover.  Due to the friable nature of the asbestos which also lines the cover of the box an asbestos consultant should be contacted to examine the blower box.

Hatch Consultancy are based in Devon and have considerable experience in undertaking asbestos surveys within churches throughout the south west. For more information please do not hesitate to contact us.

Asbestos panels lining organ blower box

September 4, 2015Permalink

Two companies fined for serious breaches in the removal of asbestos

A construction management company and a director of a construction company were fined for serious safety failings whilst working on a construction site at Kensington Church Street, London.

Work was carried out by three employees of construction firm Cowen Builders Limited, of Chelmsford exposed them to asbestos over several days after it was disturbed. It will be several years before it is know if the exposure will result in asbestos related disease causing ill health and death.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard how, in May 2013, Cowen Builders Limited (CBL) had been contracted by Paragon Management UK Limited (Paragon) to carry out work at the premises. Prior to this work asbestos had been identified in a survey by Paragon. Paragon failed to provide the details of the survey to CBL prior to the work starting. CBL failed to consider the possibility of asbestos being present and then continued the work without adequate measures in place after it was known the asbestos had been disturbed.

Paragon Management UK Limited, from Austin Friars, London, was fined a total of £20,000, and ordered to pay £2,373 in costs after pleading guilty to an offence under Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. They were also ordered to pay compensation to each of the three workers.

Kenneth W Cowen, sole director of Cowen Building Limited of South Woodham Ferrers, Chelmsford, Essex, was fined £15,000, and ordered to pay £2,373 in costs after pleading guilty to offences under Section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

September 1, 2015Permalink

Inquest open into the death of 3 men from Paignton, Devon from asbestos related diseases.

THE coroner has opened separate inquests into the deaths of three Torbay men from asbestos-related diseases.

Anthony Sydney Ellis, who was born in Newton Abbot but lived in Kings Road Paignton, was a retired carpenter.The coroner has been told that during his life he had been exposed to asbestos. Two years ago he was diagnosed with mesothelioma.

The coroner has also opened an inquest into the death of Leslie Roy Gibson. Mr Gibson a retired carpenter, was born in Birmingham, was married and lived at Washington Close in Paignton. During his life he had been exposed to asbestos and was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2012.

A third inquest has been opened and adjourned into the death of John Moss, a retired Royal Navy shipwright, who was born in Plymouth but lived at Torbay Road in Paignton. He had been exposed to asbestos during his working life and was clinically diagnosed with mesothelioma in February.

 

August 24, 2015Permalink

Roofer fined after failing to identify asbestos

A roofer has been fined after exposing workers and the home owners to potentially deadly asbestos fibres at a domestic property in Suffolk.

6 August 2014, David Cummings, t/a Cummings Flat Roofing was commissioned to repair and reroof a porch in Martlesham, Suffolk.

During the reroofing work, his employees disturbed asbestos insulation board as they were removing the underside of the porch canopy.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which today (26 May 2015) prosecuted Mr. Cummings at Ipswich Magistrates Court, found that the Mr. Cummings had not arranged for a Refurbishment and Demolition Asbestos Survey for the job to determine if asbestos was present, and if so the type of asbestos present in the porch, despite the homeowner advising Mr. Cummings that he believed his porch contained asbestos.

As a result, Mr. Cummings’ employees were unaware of the presence of asbestos insulation board before starting work and potentially exposed the homeowners, and themselves, to asbestos fibres.

In addition, workers did not remove the asbestos insulation board in an appropriate manner, causing a significant amount of breakage to the board, and heavily contaminated the garden with asbestos fibres. and as the workers did not control access to the area, asbestos fibres were liable to have been carried in the family’s home.

Mr. Cummings, of Kesgrave, Ipswich, was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £1,200 in costs plus a victim surcharge of £120 after pleading guilty to three breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector David King said:

“Exposure to asbestos fibres is a serious and well know health risk, so it is essential that duty-holders take suitable and sufficient measures to prevent the disturbance, spread and exposure to asbestos.

“Guidance on managing the risks of asbestos is widely and freely available. Asbestos has been subject to regulations since 1931, and relevant to the construction industry since 1969.

“Therefore failing to take action to identify asbestos while planning work, to ensure contractor who may disturb asbestos are aware of the location and type of asbestos present and take appropriate measures to protect the health of others is absolutely not excusable.”

Around 4,500 people die every year as a result of breathing in asbestos fibres, making it the biggest single cause of work-related deaths in the UK. Airborne fibres can become lodged in the lungs and digestive tract, and can lead to lung cancer or other diseases, but symptoms may not appear for several decades.

June 24, 2015Permalink

Asbestos in Schools

Teachers must be protected from the “scourge of asbestos” in UK schools, the National Union of Teachers has said. Two former teachers tell how they have been affected.

“I think it was in the ceilings, and I presume it was in the walls,” said Jenny Darby, 71, a science teacher between 1969 and 1996.

“So when the [ceiling] tiles came off, the asbestos would come down. I used to stick them back up almost every day.”

She does not know where she was exposed to the asbestos that caused her mesothelioma – a rare form of cancer almost always caused by exposure to the substance – but thinks it might have been in one of her classrooms. Asbestos was also in her lab equipment.

“I knew that blue asbestos and grey asbestos was banned, but I didn’t realise that white asbestos was a danger as well,” she told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme.

White asbestos was banned in 1999.
A 2013 study from the independent Committee on Carcinogenicity estimated more than 75% of schools in England had buildings containing asbestos.

The NUT puts the UK-wide figure at 86%, based on a Freedom of Information request to local authorities.

Symptoms of the cancer generally take 30 to 40 years to develop. Once diagnosed, however, most people can expect to live between just 12 and 21 months.

Jenny was diagnosed in May 2013 and is hoping her chemotherapy has slowed the cancer’s progress. But her husband, Bromley, said they were “on borrowed time”.

“We’re looking ahead maybe six to eight weeks, maybe more,” he said, regarding the couple’s ability to make plans for the future.

Between 2003 and 2012, 224 people in Britain whose last occupation was recorded as “teaching professional” died of the disease.

The rate of deaths is rising, but only in line with overall mesothelioma deaths, which amounted to 21,957 during this same period.

Jenny said she did not have any hopes for the future but tried to remain positive where possible.

“Sometimes I cry because I just feel it goes on and on and on, but I’m fairly upbeat,” she said.

She has been given compensation by the local authority, which settled her claim with no admission of liability.

‘Time-bomb’

There are now strict government regulations on how to manage asbestos and monitor its condition in schools, but an NUT online survey – based on 201 responses  – suggested 44% of teachers had not been told whether their school contained the substance.

David Martin, 70, from Mansfield, was diagnosed with mesothelioma three years ago.

It came as a shock, as his former school “was very careful, and had a plan of where the asbestos was located”.

Last year, he was given compensation by the local authority, with liability admitted over his exposure to asbestos while working as a school technician.

He had also taught woodwork and design at the school for 20 years.

“If it was anything to do with moving asbestos or working with asbestos, then specialist firms were brought in to remove it professionally,” he said.

“So I never thought I was really being exposed until after being diagnosed.

“I wasn’t aware that by banging doors that could have disturbed some of the asbestos fibres, which I’m now told it could have done.

“I put a projector and a screen in every classroom in the school… it could have been then that I was exposed.”

David described asbestos in schools as “a time-bomb waiting to explode”, and his main fear is for pupils.

“Children will be children,” he said.

“They will knock, tap, kick balls – no matter what signs you put up,” he says.

There are no statistics to suggest how many people might have developed mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure as a pupil, but the Committee on Carcinogenicity suggests a child first exposed to asbestos aged five has a lifetime risk of developing the cancer about five times greater than that of an adult first exposed aged 30.

A government review of asbestos in schools in March 2015 concluded if it was undamaged and managed safely, it did not pose a significant risk and it was safer to keep it in place.

The government said it would continue to develop more targeted guidance on asbestos management in schools and, where appropriate, fund its removal.

A Department of Education spokesperson said: “Billions has been invested to improve the condition of the school estate, with further significant investment to come over this Parliament. This funding will help to ensure asbestos is managed safely and that the amount in school buildings continues to reduce over time.”

But NUT general secretary Christine Blower said the government had no “long-term strategy” and there was “still no [government] recognition that asbestos is a serious problem for schools”.

Prof Julian Peto, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “Because the levels of asbestos are [often] so low in schools, actually ripping it out could be more dangerous”.

“It’s a very nasty problem to get sorted. And for young people, the risk of dying of mesothelioma is more like one in 10,000, as there’s a disconnect between those being diagnosed now and the exposure to the children of today.”

He added that, were it possible, removing all asbestos from the environment would prevent “at most 25 deaths a year” – and only a fraction of these from exposure in schools.

“So trying to remove it from all schools could actually increase the number of deaths.”

June 22, 2015Permalink

Welsh contractor jailed for unlicensed asbestos removal

A builder has been jailed for exposing workers to asbestos while working at a commercial unit on a Colwyn Bay industrial estate.

Brian Roberts of 123 Bryniau Road, Llandudno and three men working with him, were exposed to potentially deadly asbestos fibres while working in the unit at Eagle Farm Road, Mochdre Business Park around 11 September 2012.

Llandudno Magistrates’ Court heard today (12 June) how Roberts, who had been employed by the owner of the premises trading at the time, as Light in Design to remove asbestos from the building prior to sale.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was alerted to the unlicensed work by a contractor who was licensed to remove asbestos.

HSE’s investigation found that Roberts removed a significant quantity of asbestos insulating board (AIB) from the premises despite not holding a licence to work with such material.

Brian Roberts pleaded guilty to breaching the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, and was given a custodial sentence of 26 weeks.

Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector Chris Wilcox said: “The safe removal of asbestos requires a high level of skill and technical knowledge and must be done by a contractor licenced by HSE.”

“Asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK. There are specific rules in place to make sure it is dealt with safely and contractors have a duty to ensure they protect their workers from risk of exposure.

“By undertaking the uncontrolled removal of asbestos, work for which he was not licensed, Brian Roberts exposed himself and his co-workers to the risk of inhaling asbestos fibres.

“The outcome of this exposure cannot easily be assessed but there remains the possibility of ill health in the future. The workers could also have posed a health risk to others, including, for example, their families and loved ones, by taking home contaminated clothing.

“Those involved now have to live with the fear of becoming ill with this life-threatening lung disease.”

June 15, 2015Permalink

Failure to undertake R&D asbestos survey exposes workers

A construction firm has been fined after exposing workers to potentially deadly asbestos fibres during the conversion of an office block into residential flats in Witham, Essex.

In July 2012, Marden Homes Ltd was commissioned to convert an office block into residential flats, this involved removing a disused boiler and its pipes from the building’s former Plant Room.

During the refurbishment work, employees of Marden Homes Ltd disturbed pipe lagging which contained asbestos fibres.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), prosecuted Marden Homes Ltd at Chelmsford Magistrates Court after finding the company had not arranged for a Refurbishment and Demolition Asbestos Survey to be available to the workers on site.

The Marden Homes Ltd employees were therefore unable to identify the presence of asbestos before removing the disused boiler and associated pipework and potentially exposed themselves, and other workers, to asbestos fibres.

One of the workers involved had not received any training to enable him to identify whether the materials he was removing were liable to contain asbestos.

The company had, in 2013, received advice from HSE regarding the need for a refurbishment and demolition asbestos survey to be carried out prior to work liable to disturb asbestos taking place. The company also received an Improvement Notice requiring them to provide their employees with asbestos awareness training.

Marden Homes Ltd of 275 Prince Avenue, Westcliff on Sea, Essex was fined £50,000 with costs of £1413 after pleading guilty to three breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector David King said: “Exposure to asbestos fibres is a serious and well known health risk, so it is essential that duty-holders take suitable and sufficient measures to prevent the disturbance, spread and exposure to asbestos.

“Guidance on managing the risks of asbestos is widely and freely available. Asbestos has been subject to regulations since 1931 and relevant to the construction industry since 1969.

“Therefore failing to take action to identify the location and type of asbestos present during planning of the work, not communicating that information to workers/contractors who may disturb the asbestos and then not taking appropriate measures to protect the health of those exposed is absolutely inexcusable.”

June 10, 2015Permalink

London council in court after decade of ignoring asbestos risks

Waltham Forest borough council has been fined after it exposed members of staff and visiting contractors to the potentially lethal dangers of asbestos, which it knew to be present in the Town Hall basement.

The hazardous material was identified in a survey commissioned by the council in 2002, yet it failed to take adequate action to act on the findings and put effective controls in place. As a result employees and visiting contractors were allowed to carry on working in the basement regardless of the dangers for the next ten years.

Westminster Magistrates heard today (30 March) that the issue only became public by chance in mid-2012 when a local resident put in a request to the council to see some election expenses documentation. The authority denied the request with the reason that the paperwork was contaminated with asbestos.

As a result, the resident approached the Health and Safety Executive’s ‘Mythbuster Challenge Panel’, which in turn referred the concern to HSE inspectors in north east London to investigate further.

HSE found that the council had a second asbestos survey carried out in January 2012. This had quickly identified problems of asbestos in the boiler room and other areas of the basement. The survey also highlighted that areas identified in the 2002 survey had not been remedied.

The court heard that Waltham Forest had no plan in place for managing the well-known risks of asbestos and there was an inadequate system in place for inspecting asbestos at the Town Hall.

HSE served an Improvement Notice on the council requiring them to put in place a proper management plan dealing with the presence of asbestos. Inspectors also interviewed a number of employees and contractors who had used the basement over the years, including print-room staff who were based down there.

Waltham Forest Borough Council was fined a total of £66,000 and ordered to pay £16,862 in costs after pleading guilty to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and a breach of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Chris Tilley said:

“Waltham Forest was aware of the asbestos in the basement as far back as 1984. It was also aware of the risks from asbestos exposure and of its duty to manage those risks. However, the authority singularly failed to do so over more than a decade. Over that period, an unquantifiable number of its own employees plus workers from maintenance companies and similar were regularly exposed to these hazards.

“Asbestos-related disease has a long latency and it is impossible to ascertain what injury may have been caused in this case. But asbestos is a known and powerful carcinogen and owners or managers of non-domestic premises, such as councils, have a legal duty to manage the material in their buildings and have measures and controls in place to protect workers and the public from being exposed.”

June 1, 2015Permalink