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August 23, 2010

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Renovation work disturbed asbestos at primary school

A building firm failed to warn its employees that asbestos was present during renovations at a school in Warwickshire.
 
Greswolde Construction Ltd had been contracted to build an extension at Rokeby Primary School in Rugby. The company was in possession of a Type 3 asbestos survey, which detailed where asbestos was present at the site. But this information was not passed on to its workforce.
 
On 9 July 2009, three employees were stripping out a room when they disturbed an area containing asbestos. They had not been given asbestos awareness training so were unaware that the hazardous material was present.

HSE inspector Paul Cooper revealed that children were being taught in the adjaxent room when the asbestos was disturbed. He said: “The dangers of asbestos are well known in the building industry, so for the managers of Greswolde Construction not to inform their employees of its presence shows a complete disregard for their safety and well-being.

“What makes it worse is that this work was being carried out in a primary school where young children were in the next room.

“We 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.”

Greswolde Construction appeared at Stratford-upon-Avon Magistrates’ Court on 19 August and pleaded guilty to breaching reg. 10(1) and 11(1)(a) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006, for failing to give adequate information about the presence of asbestos to its employees, and for allowing workers to be exposed to asbestos. It was fined £1000 and ordered to pay £2268 towards costs.

In mitigation the firm said it complied with the investigation and deeply regretted the incident. It told the court that it had systems in place to ensure that only licensed sub-contractors are sanctioned to remove asbestos but, on this occasion, the threat of exposure had not been relayed to the workforce due to poor communication.

The company had no previous convictions but had been issued a Prohibition Notice on 9 June 2009 while working on the same project. The HSE had made a surprise inspection at the site and saw a worker using a mechanical breaker on the edge of the roof, which had no edge protection. The notice required work to stop at the sight until adequate edge protection was installed.

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