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October 7, 2011

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Workers used sledgehammers to break up asbestos board

Workers and shoppers were potentially exposed to asbestos on the busy high-street construction site of a south-east London building contractor because he flouted the rules on working with the hazardous material.

Fadil Adil, of Bromley, Kent, was fined on several counts at City of London Magistrates’ Court on 6 October for breaches of asbestos and construction design legislation on the site on Bromley High Street between 21 and 29 June 2010.

Ian Seabrook, the HSE inspector who investigated the case, told SHP that Adil was a private individual who had bought the plot of land in order to build retail outlets with eight flats above them. The project, which had not been properly planned, involved the demolition of a building that comprised a restaurant on the ground floor with flats above it. Three workers, whose qualifications could not be proved, were overseen by Adil.

During the demolition, the workers, who did not recognise asbestos insulating boards in the restaurant’s ceiling as such, used sledgehammers and hand-operated tools to break them up, so they were “more than likely” to have been exposed to asbestos fibres, according to the Inspector.

An HSE investigation discovered that the defendant did not have a licence to work with asbestos, nor was he trained in construction management. He failed to carry out an asbestos survey, and did not provide any guidance for his workmen regarding the presence of asbestos.

Inspector Seabrook said: “Sadly, this kind of incident is all too familiar. The dangers of asbestos are well known; it is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK, with around 1000 tradesmen dying each year from asbestos-related diseases.

“Anyone working with these sorts of materials must commission an asbestos survey to ascertain the level of work needed and then have asbestos removed in a controlled manner by a licensed contractor.”

The HSE had issued two Prohibition Notices in June 2010, after complaints about dust from the site. A third Notice was served two weeks later after the Health and Safety Laboratory identified samples taken from the site as asbestos.

Fadil Adil pleaded guilty to breaching the following Regulations, for which he was fined a total of £19,300 and ordered to pay full HSE SE costs of £7654:

  • reg.8(1) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006, by undertaking work with asbestos without a licence – fine £8000;
  • reg.5 of the same Regulations, by not conducting an asbestos survey – fine £6000;
  • reg.4(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, by not appointing a competent site manager – fine £2650; and
  • reg.22(1) of the same Regulations by not managing construction work to ensure safety – fine £2650.

In mitigation, Adil said he had made a mistake of ignorance and had not acted for profit motives. He had not deliberately broken the law on asbestos, but had not been aware of it. He had done what he had been asked to do to improve matters since the incident.

The site was cleared after the investigation and has since stood empty behind a first-floor façade. Inspector Seabrook explained that the site is located next to a Sainsbury’s store, which would have potentially exposed shoppers to asbestos while the demolition had been taking place.

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12 years ago

and they say they are or already have laid off health and safety inspectors. some one is having a laugh and to put the public at risk with nothing to do with the job in the first place is unreal. some parts of the country in the building game is fast becoming a third world country.

12 years ago

Bromley? Isn’t that where our illustrious councillor said “I don’t do Hard Hats” and flouted H&S advice? What’s good enough for the council is obviously good enough for its residents.. I’m sure our Bromley Councilor will think the HSE were heavy handed to a small entrepreneur who had applied the “Mind over Matter Approach” – He didn’t mind and his workers did not matter! Remind me to try that wonderful “mistake of ignorance” line next time I’m caught speeding

12 years ago

I have lost count on the number of laws this individual has breached, including regulation 10 of car – asbestos awareness training for employees, which I would have thought was near the top of the list.

Mr Adil must have invested a considerable amount of money to buy this plot of land. Hence the level of fine is pathetic given the seriouness of the breaches. ‘Mistake of ignorance’…I thought ignorance was no defence, certainly not an acceptable excuse.