Unlicensed contractor 'cleaned up asbestos dust with wet wipes'

Posted: 2017-08-23

An asbestos contractor from Wiltshire has been fined £100,000 and one of its directors handed a suspended jail sentence over a catalogue of failings, including allowing untrained workers to rip out asbestos by hand.

Winchester Crown Court heard that Sarum Asbestos carried out four asbestos removal jobs between 2012 and 2015, despite not holding a license to do so.

On a contract to remove asbestos pipe lagging at a hotel in Weymouth, workers cleaned up dust with wet wipes.

Sarum Asbestos, which has since gone into liquidation, and director Jeremy Uphill, 61, both pleaded guilty to six charges.

The court was told that during the work at Weymouth’s Moonfleet Manor hotel in 2012, workers who said they had never received any training were told to pull the asbestos pipe lagging off by hand, according to the Salisbury Journal.

The area was hoovered and wiped down after the work was finished, but the hotel manager later found debris, the paper said. An employee subsequently used wet wipes to clean it up.

The court was also told that on 8 March 2013, the HSE received a complaint from a worker employed to demolish the Forresters Respite Holiday Centre in Hythe, Hampshire.

Sarum Asbestos had been contracted to carry out a survey of the building and remove any asbestos containing materials (ACMs) before demolition work started.

Prosecuting, Simon Morgan from St John’s Chambers said that workers wore no protective clothing when they removed the asbestos, according to the Salisbury Journal. There was no decontamination station on site, and they wore the same clothes when they went home.

Workers said that they used hammers to remove ACMs and a ceiling was pulled down using crowbars.

The HSE said that the firm again failed to carry out testing after the work was finished to ensure that the asbestos had been completely removed, putting staff and members of the public at risk.

Sarum Asbestos was issued with a prohibition notice on 11 May 2015, stopping it from carrying out any more licensable work.

Nevertheless, it went on to carry out another job at Corsham police station without obtaining a license.

Sarum Asbestos of Charlton All Saints, Wiltshire pleaded guilty to six charges.

It admitted breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act over the work at Forresters Respite Centre, and a further two breaches of the same sections of the HSWA for work at Corsham police station.

In relation to the work at Moonfleet Manor, it admitted breaching Regulation 11 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations, and a further breach of the same regulation for work undertaken at Camberwell Reform Church in London.

At Salisbury Crown Court on 11 August, the company was fined a total of £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £31,000.

The HSE also found that Uphill, of Pimperne in Dorset, ignored legal requirements for the licensed removal of ACMs.

He pleaded guilty to the same six charges as his company, and was sentenced to a total of six months imprisonment, suspended for two years.

HSE inspector Adam Wycherley said: “Both the company and director failed to protect their workers and members of the public on a number of occasions and as a result placed them at risk of exposure to asbestos fibres.

“Work with the material that was identified by the company should have been subcontracted to a qualified licensed asbestos removal company.

“Around 3000 people a year die from asbestos related diseases and it is a well-known risk within the construction industry. There is no excuse for putting people at risk when the hazards can be controlled with careful management during work with asbestos containing materials.”