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May 9, 2017

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£750,000 fine for ‘reckless’ asbestos failure

Some 200 workers were put at risk to the exposure of asbestos during the early demolition phase of a project, resulting in a £750,000 fine for a construction firm.

The HSE carried out two investigations of working practices at a site in 2013 and 2014 while Barroerock Construction Limited were converting a former nine storey office building into flats in Ashford, Kent, which was known to contain asbestos.

Canterbury Crown Court heard that the first investigation arose from a routine inspection during one of HSE’s refurbishment campaigns. The Court was told that while a refurbishment and demolition (R&D) survey had been carried out the company had failed to act upon it. This resulted in up to 40 workers being exposed to asbestos.

The second investigation culminated in a visit to the site in June 2014 following complaints being made about the health and safety practices at the site. It was found that despite engaging a licensed asbestos contractor to remove the remaining asbestos materials, dangerous practices were continuing. And the company was unable to provide documentation to show that asbestos materials identified in the survey had been correctly removed. When the work on site was halted for the second time about 160 people were working inside the building.

It was found in both HSE investigations that these incidents could have been prevented if Barroerock ensured they had effective management controls in place to avoid the risk of exposure to asbestos.

Barroerock, who had pleaded guilty to two offences of breaching Regulation 22 (1) (a) of the Construction Design and Management Regulations 2007 at an earlier hearing, were fined £750,000 and ordered to pay costs of £14,874.68.

“The company’s failings in this case has put many workers at risk to the exposure of asbestos”, commented HSE inspector Melvyn Stancliffe.

“It was clear there was an endemic failure to effectively manage the construction work on the site in a way which ensured that asbestos materials were not disturbed until removed under appropriate conditions. Failing to prevent the breathing in of asbestos fibres on the site is reckless”, he added.

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David Williams
David Williams

There is something of an end-note to this case. The offending company, Barroerock Construction, has been placed in liquidation by its directors, although it had apparently generated an annual turnover of some £10 million over the previous three years; I am not aware of the reason for its sudden financial collapse. Therefore, the £750,000 fine and £14,874.68 worth of meticulously calculated costs will not be paid. It also seems that the defence lawyers won’t be paid either; they sent a letter to the court to say that as the defendant owed them money, they wouldn’t be representing them at their… Read more »

Ian Malone
Ian Malone

Most of the bigger construction firms can’t be touched either as every project is run by a subsidery that has limited liability but a legal team from the top, so money can only travel one way.

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[…] £750,000 fine for ‘reckless’ asbestos failure. Some 200 workers were put at risk to the exposure of asbestos during the early demolition phase of a project, resulting in a £750,000 fine for a construction firm. Read more – SHP Online […]

Frank
Frank

Good work by the investigators where it is found companies can’t or won’t pay take it from ther property or other assets lie they do n other countries through the criminal assets bureau it is after all a criminal offence treat it like one

stuart.britton
stuart.britton

Interesting follow up by David Williams. It seems that a limited company can offer protection in business to Directors, but perhaps it can be used to escape fines in H&S when the whole idea is to make employers take notice and prevent ill health or Death? Until this area is tightened especially in H&S then companies will simply escape when they have done wrong to prevent paying fines or perhaps if it can be proven an Employer has really lack of regard to its staff or people around and are prepared to expose them, then perhaps then custodial sentences may… Read more »

Brian
Brian

Shouldn’t/didn’t the level of fine take account of the company’s financial status?

Karl Spencer
Karl Spencer

I found David Williams comments more astounding than the original complacency. The government introduced new revised sentencing guidelines in order to hit directors where it hurts (I know as I was one of them) and then allow this dodgery.