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Fines for asbestos failings at construction project

Building contractor fined for asbestos failings at a domestic property construction project

A company has been fined for failing to complete the correct asbestos survey at a domestic construction project.

Salisbury Magistrates’ Court heard how, on 18 October 2017, there was a gas explosion at a flat at Market Place, Chippenham where construction work had been carried out to develop the property into flats.

Following the gas explosion, an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found Prestige EA Ltd failed to plan, manage and monitor construction work to prevent people from being exposed to risks associated with asbestos containing materials (ACM’s).

Prestige EA Ltd was contracted to advise and manage the development of the property into four flats above a retail unit. The wrong type of asbestos survey was carried out before the work which meant it was completed not in compliance with the law.

Types of Survey

It’s important to understand the differences between the two types of survey and the duty-holder – building owner, employer and surveyor – need to be clear on what type of survey is needed, where the survey is needed, and what records should result.

Management survey

The Management Survey purpose is required to manage ACM during the normal occupation and use of premises.  The duty-holder can make a Management Survey where the premises are simple and straightforward. Otherwise, a surveyor is needed.

A Management Survey aims to ensure that:

  • nobody is harmed by the continuing presence of ACM in the premises or equipment
  • that the ACM remain in good condition
  • that nobody disturbs it accidentally

The Survey must locate ACM that could be damaged or disturbed by normal activities, by foreseeable maintenance, or by installing new equipment.

It involves minor intrusion and minor asbestos disturbance to make a Materials assessment. This shows the ability of ACM, if disturbed, to release fibres into the air.  It guides the client in prioritising any remedial work.

Refurbishment / demolition survey

The Refurbishment / demolition Survey is required where the premises, or part of it, need upgrading, refurbishment or demolition. The Survey does not need a record of the ACM condition. Normally, a surveyor is needed for Refurbishment / demolition Surveys.

A Refurbishment / demolition Survey aims to ensure that:

  • nobody will be harmed by work on ACM in the premises or equipment
  • such work will be done by the right contractor in the right way

The Survey must locate and identify all ACM before any structural work begins at a stated location or on stated equipment at the premises.  It involves destructive inspection and asbestos disturbance.  The area surveyed must be vacated, and certified ‘fit for reoccupation’ after the survey.

Penalties

Because the company didn’t commission the correct survey, workers were put at risk and the now liquidated Prestige EA Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £2,000 and must pay costs of £3,000.

Speaking at the hearing, HSE inspector Leo Diez said: “Duty holders must make sure construction work is properly planned, managed and monitored to ensure asbestos work is carried out in a safe manner to the required standard.

“The dangers associated with asbestos are well known and a wealth of advice and guidance is freely available from HSE and other organisations. HSE will not hesitate to take action against companies who disregard the law and place lives at risk.”