Asbestos – The Risk to Contractors


Asbestos, even today when the product is banned from general use and we know the risks of the appalling disease asbestosis, is still the biggest cause of work-related deaths in the UK. There is plenty of information available about the risks and how to deal with them, yet incidents still occur such as this latest case.

Both the building contractor and the local authority were found culpable for allowing the spreading of asbestos due to the renovation of a bathroom in a council-owned flat.

Spread of Contamination

Belton Developments was converting a bathroom into a wet room, and doing so their workers disturbed asbestos in the property which is owned by South Kesteven District Council,

In breach of all the regulations, the contractors removed asbestos insulation board from the bath surround then carried it through the flat and communal areas in an open wheelbarrow and loaded it into an open-topped van.

An asbestos surveyor working on behalf of the council in the flat above witnessed this hazard. Knowing that flats in the building contained asbestos, he stopped the work.

A properly-licensed asbestos contractor then decontaminated the area and carried out air clearance tests.

Council and Contractors both liable

The Council reported the incident to HSE and as a result the partners who own Belton Developments were jointly prosecuted together with the Council due to the infringement of the law.

Grantham Magistrates’ Court heard that the Council, despite knowing about the presence of asbestos, did not supply adequate information to the contractors about the asbestos in the property before work began. The Council also failed to ensure that Belton Developments were competent to carry out asbestos work.

For their part, Belton Developments did not properly ensure that their workers were trained to deal with the specific risks. It also emerged in Court that the partners of Belton Developments had been served a Prohibition Notice preventing refurbishment work at another property owned by the same Council only 12 days before,

The Notice was served because an asbestos refurbishment and demolition survey had not been undertaken. This demonstrates the need for appropriate and thoroughgoing risk assessment in works of this kind.

South Kesteven District Council were fined a total of £16,600 plus costs of £3,486 after pleaded guilty to breaching regulations 4(1)(a) and 10(1)(b) of the Construction Design and Management (CDM) Regulations 2007.

The three partners of the contracting firm pleaded guilty to breaching regulations 10(1)(a) and 16 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 and were fined a total of £3,003 plus costs of £900.

A case for professional help

Whether you are responsible for a public or private project, CDM is now a legal requirement for all except the smallest building works. Unless you can afford the luxury of having your own in-house experts on asbestos and other risks, it is wise to call in trained CDM Consultants to identify these issues, build them in to the planning process, and ensue that contractors are aware of their obligations.

For contractors, proper risk assessments are vital, including where necessary an asbestos survey, to protect your workers and to remain within the law.

Involving McCormack Benson Health & Safety at the outset of a project will mean that expert CDM & Health and Safety consultants are deployed to work with the project teams and help ensure that the work is carried out safely and within the law.