Two self-employed builders from Birmingham have been sentenced for exposing themselves and householders the deadly material asbestos.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the builders after they illegally removed and broke up asbestos panels from a home in Handsworth in May 2012.
Birmingham Magistrates’ Court heard how the householder received a grant from Birmingham City Council to convert his garage into a bedroom and bathroom for his disabled father.
As part of the grant process, samples were taken on behalf of the City Council to test for asbestos and the results revealed asbestos was present. However, HSE’s investigation concluded that by the time the test results were known, the builders had already broken up the asbestos insulating boards (AIBs) with a hammer and removed them.
HSE told the court that neither of the builders held the necessary licence to remove the asbestos boards. Nor did they carry out, or ask to see, an asbestos survey, which is required by law before any demolition or refurbishment work is undertaken.
In failing to take adequate steps to prevent both the exposure to and spread of asbestos fibres generated by their work, they put the householders, themselves and others at risk of inhaling the potentially harmful airborne fibres. The subsequent clean-up of the site cost the City Council more than £6,500.
Both builders pleaded guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and were each fined £2,000 with additional costs of £1,200.
Speaking after the prosecution, HSE Inspector Gareth Langston said:
“An estimated 70% of properties contain asbestos. It is illegal to undertake any work which will disturb the fabric of the building without carrying out and obtaining the results of an asbestos survey.
“The type of work being undertaken in Handsworth should have been carried out by a builder who holds the necessary licence, in a safe manner and with the necessary control measures. Instead, [these builders] exposed the householders and others – including themselves – to potentially harmful airborne asbestos fibres. They also demonstrated a complete disregard for the law.”
Over 4,000 people die every year from asbestos-related diseases. Due to the lack of care for health and safety, these builders have exposed members of the public and themselves to potential ill health in the future, such as respiratory illness and cancer. It is important to ensure that when working on a site that you that you know if asbestos is present and what condition it’s in. Only licensed and competent Contractors should ever be permitted to remove asbestos.