Health & Safety – Asbestos

Recently a trust that provides housing and care to the elderly alongside with two firms hired to carry out refurbishment at premises in Alnwick have been fined after residents and employees were put at risk of exposure to asbestos.

The incident involved a lift shaft that contained asbestos boards, One of the company who were contracted by Anchor Trust were to remove the asbestos boards from the lift shaft at St Paul’s Court sheltered housing scheme in November 2012.

However PC Lifts who were subcontracted by Express Elevators Ltd failed to put any safety measures in place to prevent asbestos fibres from spreading.

The Health and Safety Executive advised Bedlington Magistrates’ Court that Anchor Trust had a duty as the client to ensure that correct procedures for managing the lift replacement were suitable, and to ensure there was no health risk to staff and residents.

However Anchor Trust failed in this duty by provided Express Elevators Ltd with conflicting information, although an asbestos survey was provided to Express Elevators Ltd , it was not sufficiently accurate or detailed enough for the work being carried out.

The HSE investigation also highlighted the fact that Express Elevators Ltd has also failed to plan and manage the work as they did not make adequate inquiries about the known presence of asbestos. Instead the company relied on verbal communication from Anchor and even after receiving the survey, no reference was made to it before work began.

PC Lifts were found not to have made adequate inquiries beforehand and also carried out the procedure without adequate lighting. These factors possibly contributed to the company’s failure in identifying the asbestos boards.

The boards were broken out from the top of the lift shaft, but PC Lifts failed to put measures into place to prevent the spread of asbestos fibres through the building.

The combined failures of all three parties subsequently led to the unsafe removal of the asbestos boards and the potential spread of asbestos fibres, this exposed the residents and others to a potential risk to their health.

Anchor Trust received a £10,000 fine and ordered to pay £346.40 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 9(1)(a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

PC Lifts Ltd received a £4,000 fine along with an additional £346.40 for costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 16 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

And Express Elevators Ltd was fined £8,000 with £827.30 costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 13(2) of the same legislation.

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