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October 31, 2011

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Swansea contractor fined for exposing workers to asbestos

A building contractor has been fined after its workers were exposed to asbestos fibres during refurbishment work at a premises in Swansea, South Wales.

Swansea magistrates heard on 27 October that principal contractor J C Irvine was carrying out the refurbishment work without having conducted an asbestos refurbishment and demolition survey before the work started, which would have enabled it to properly plan the work.     

The court was told that, between 27 April and 12 May 2010, asbestos-containing materials were disturbed by construction workers employed by the firm, leading to asbestos fibres being released into the air.

HSE inspectors visited the site on 12 May and served an immediate Prohibition Notice after receiving information that employees were carrying out work in a contaminated building.

J C Irvine pleaded guilty to breaching reg.23(1)(a) of the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2007 by not ensuring that the refurbishment work was properly planned, and reg.5 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 by failing to ensure that its employees were not exposed to asbestos fibres.

The firm was fined £6000 on each charge, and ordered to pay full costs of £2148.

Hayley Healey, the HSE inspector who investigated the case and prosecuted it in court, commented: “Construction and maintenance workers are in the most at-risk groups from asbestos-related diseases due to the nature of their work.

“The widespread occurrence of asbestos as a product in buildings constructed, or refurbished prior to 2000 means that inadvertent disturbance of asbestos-containing materials can be frequent and regular where asbestos products have not been adequately identified, or managed.

She concluded: “This prosecution should act as a reminder to those in the construction industry of the importance of ensuring that an asbestos survey, and its findings, are available prior to work being carried out and that the correct control measures are in place to ensure that exposure to asbestos is prevented.”

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