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Council fined £20k for series of asbestos safety failings

Posted by Tracy Seward

Stockton on Tees Borough Council has been fined a total of £20,000 and ordered to pay £5,555.60 in costs after pleading guilty to two breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.

The incident occurred while work was being carried out at a Music and Drama Club that had been acquired by the council in Buchanan Street. Asbestos had been identified as being present on the site during an inspection in April 2010. Workers we neither told about the presence of the Asbestos or given any asbestos awareness training. Also, it was found that the council had failed to ensure that those organising the work were competent to the required standard to do so.

The HSE investigation found that the council had made a series of safety failings. These included failing to make any assessment of the risk created by the presence of asbestos prior to the works being carried out. It was recognised that there was a chance that workers could be exposed to the asbestos but the council failed to produce a plan of work and there was a lack of adequate measures in place to prevent potential exposure.

The council also failed to prevent or reduce the spread of asbestos as employees and workers were found to be wearing their work uniforms to and from home each day. There were no measures ensuring the safe disposal of any debris from the club. Waste had in fact simply been placed in a refuse vehicle and disposed of as municipal waste.

It was reported to Teeside Magistrates court that is was usual practice to ‘clear and strip’ buildings before they are demolished. The work was carried out over the weekend of the 29-31 May 2010 by one the council’s 8 men strong ‘Care For Your Area’ teams. The clearing work included stripping out all fixtures and fittings, doors, seating and a kitchen. Debris, rubbish and rubble was then collected and dumped in a refuse vehicle and taken to a local landfill site for disposal.

When an official Asbestos removal contractor was on-site to carry out the removal of the asbestos-containing materials, it was noted that the previous work by the council had disturbed the fabric of the building and many items containing asbestos had already been removed and disposed of. The seriousness of the situation increased when a further survey found that the same had happened in 8 other areas of the building. It was at this point that the HSE was contacted and a report filed.

Praxis42 Intel provided in partnership with Barbour EHS

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