A trust providing housing and care for the elderly and two firms hired to carry out refurbishment work at its premises in Alnwick have been fined after staff and residents were put at risk of exposure to asbestos.
West Yorkshire firm Express Elevators Ltd was contracted by Anchor Trust to replace the lift at St Paul’s Court sheltered housing scheme in November 2012. PC Lifts, of London, was subcontracted to remove the existing lift ahead of the new one being installed.
The lift shaft contained asbestos boards, which PC Lifts removed without putting any measures in place to prevent the spread of asbestos fibres.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) today (6 February) told Bedlington Magistrates’ Court that Anchor Trust had a duty as the client to ensure that arrangements made for managing the lift replacement were suitable, and ensured there was no risk to health.
They failed in this duty as they provided Express Elevators Ltd with conflicting information and, although an asbestos survey was provided, it was not sufficiently accurate or detailed enough for the work being carried out.
The HSE investigation found that Express Elevators Ltd failed in its duty to plan and manage the work as it did not make adequate inquiries about the presence of asbestos. The company relied on verbal information from Anchor and although it received the survey, no reference was made to it before work began.
PC Lifts was also found not to have made adequate inquiries and to have worked in the lift shaft without adequate lighting. These factors may have contributed to the company’s failure in identifying the asbestos. Asbestos boards were broken out from the top of the lift shaft, but no measures were put in place to prevent the spread of asbestos fibres through the building.
The combined failures of all three parties led to the unsafe removal of the asbestos and the potential spread of asbestos fibres, which exposed residents and others to a potential risk to their health.
Anchor Trust, of Bedford Street, London, was fined £10,000 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.
Express Elevators Ltd, of Otley Road, Baildon, Shipley, West Yorkshire was fined £8,000 with £827.30 costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 13(2) of the same legislation.
PC Lifts Ltd, of St John Street, London, was fined £4,000 with £346.40 costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 16 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.
Speaking after the case HSE Inspector Natalie Wright said:
“Asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK and those involved in the construction and refurbishment industry have a clear duty to ensure that work is managed so as to prevent the spread of asbestos.
“This incident occurred because not one of the defendants fulfilled their respective duties when carrying out the lift replacement at St Paul’s Court, leading to asbestos fibres being disturbed.
“As well as the companies’ employees, the residents at St Paul’s Court were also potentially put at risk.
“This incident was entirely preventable, had the companies carried out their respective safety duties. This prosecution should act as a reminder to all involved in such work, that whenever work is carried out which is liable to expose employees to asbestos a suitable survey must be done to establish whether asbestos is present before any work begins.”
Information and advice about working safely with asbestos can be found on the HSE website at www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos
Notes to Editors
1. Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
2. Regulation 9(1)(a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 states: “Every client shall take reasonable steps to ensure that the arrangements made for managing the project (including the allocation of sufficient time and other resources) by persons with a duty under these Regulations (including the client himself) are suitable to ensure that the construction work can be carried out so far as is reasonably practicable without risk to the health and safety of any person.”
3. Regulation 13(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 states: “Every contractor shall plan, manage and monitor construction work carried out by him or under his control in a way which ensures that, so far as is reasonably practicable, it is carried out without risks to health and safety.”
4. Regulation 16 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 states: “Every employer must prevent or, where this is not reasonably practicable, reduce to the lowest level reasonably practicable the spread of asbestos from any place where work under the employer’s control is carried out.”
5. HSE news releases are available at www.hse.gov.uk/press