Failure to use licensed asbestos contractors


This incident shows that no-one can take the chance of illegally using general building contractors to strip away the uniquely hazardous material that is asbestos. The regulations are there for a reason, which is that people (whether workers or the general public) must be protected.

Property owner Peter Rees was in September 2012 planning to sell commercial premises in Eagle Farm Road on the Mochdre Business Park, near Colwyn Bay, North Wales. The business that intended to buy the unit arranged an asbestos survey: the result was that a lot of asbestos-containing insulating board was found in the building.

Builders contaminated the building

Mr. Rees wrongly then commissioned a general building firm to remove the boards. The contractor raised asbestos dust that contaminated the space.

Of course, properly qualified, licensed asbestos removal contractors should have been used. It was one of these asbestos specialists that raised the alert with the HSE. The result was a major clean up by an authorised contractor.

So it was that the client was found liable for the danger, when he came before Llandudno Magistrates’ Court and pleaded guilty. The defendant, Peter Rees from Deganwy, received a fine of £8,000 and had to pay £7,400 prosecution costs for breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974*.

The HSE Inspector (Chris Wilcox) said of the case:

The potentially lethal effects of exposure to asbestos are well known. Mr Rees’ failure to use a qualified and licensed company to remove the asbestos led to contamination inside the building. Fortunately, HSE was made aware of the incident before it was reoccupied by the new owners. Anyone who owns or has control of non-domestic premises has a legal duty to manage the risk of asbestos in their buildings. When asbestos is removed, it must be done by someone who is trained and competent to do the work.

The HSE’s advice on how to handle this deadly material is worth reviewing if you are the owner or principal contractor involved with older buildings. And the construction safety specialist consultancy,McCormack Benson Health & Safety, can advise and train staff on everything to do with this topic, to avoid you having your own day in court.

*Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every self-employed person to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that he and other persons (not being his employees) who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”