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January 13, 2011

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Landlord exposed workers to asbestos during roof renovations

A property management company has been fined more than £30,000 after admitting it exposed workers to asbestos.

Halifax Crown Court heard that MA Estates Ltd leased out a factory building in Holdsfield Road, Halifax to two companies, which were also managed by the property firm’s directors. Staff in the building had complained that the temperature was too cold and, as a result, MA Estates had begun carrying out upgrade work on the roof.

The renovations were carried out by 15 workers who, comprising employees from MA Estates and the two other businesses.  As part of the job the men stripped materials from support beams. On 19 May 2007, a local business complained to the HSE after seeing the stripped materials, which it suspected contained asbestos fibres.

On 2 June 2007, an HSE inspector visited the site and found chrysotile (white asbestos) was present on the roof. The inspector issued a Prohibition Notice, which required the work to cease and for the building to be evacuated until the asbestos was removed by a licensed contractor.

HSE inspector Rachel Britain revealed the company had failed to carry out an asbestos survey or risk assessment, had no licence to remove asbestos, and hadn’t given staff any instruction or training in how to identify or remove asbestos. She said: “The dangers of asbestos should never be underestimated and are well known in the property industry and beyond. For a company to put workers at this level of risk shows a total disregard for their safety and welfare.€ᄄ
“I can’t stress enough how important it is for anyone carrying out building work to obtain the proper asbestos surveys – and then act upon them.”

MA Estates appeared in court on 12 January and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974, and seven charges under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006. It was fined £30,100 and ordered to pay £2475 in costs.

In mitigation, the firm said it had complied with the enforcement notice by hiring a licensed company to remove the asbestos and decontaminate the site before the roof work recommenced. It claimed to have carried out an asbestos survey when it first purchased the building but was unable to present any evidence of this to the court.

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