A catalogue of errors made by an engineering company and a building firm resulted in workers being exposed to potentially deadly asbestos fibres.
Workers were exposed to dangerous asbestos fibres during a refurbishment and demolition project in Swansea, a court has heard. It was concluded that the project was badly managed, with untrained staff in charge of operations and that this was further fuelled by inadequate surveys for the presence of asbestos.
Neath Magistrates’ Court was told on 10th January 2013 that engineering firm Wall Colmonoy Ltd had contracted Oaktree Construction to renovate a building opposite its premises in Pontardawe, Swansea in December 2010. The engineering firm had two asbestos management surveys for the site and although these were later deemed to be inadequate, they did identify the presence of asbestos materials.
Despite this identification of asbestos, work was allowed to begin in the building without a legitimate removal plan. It was heard that Trebanos-based Oaktree had been advised by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that a separate ‘Refurbishment and Demolition Survey’ was also required before any activity commenced and that this requirement was ignored.
During the demolition works asbestos insulation board (AIB) that was covering a steel column was damaged. A Wall Colmonoy employee was told to tape plastic bags around it and work was allowed to continue in the building for several months with the AIB debris left lying on the floor.
A subsequent HSE investigation found that Wall Colmonoy failed to appoint a competent Construction, Design and Management Co-ordinator and a Principal Contractor to plan and manage the construction work. Furthermore, they ignored advice from its own health and safety manager to notify the HSE of the demolition phase of the project, as is required by law.
In addition, the court heard that no-one involved in the management of the project had the skills, training or experience to address health and safety issues, including the risk of asbestos exposure and that non of the workers had received mandatory asbestos awareness training.
Wall Colomony, of Alloy Industrial Estate, Pontardawe, was fined a total of £16,000 and ordered to pay £3,287 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. Oaktree Construction (Wales) Ltd, of Pheasant Road, Trebanos, was fined £8,000 with costs of £2,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Regulations 16 and 11(1) (a) of the of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.
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Published Feb 25, 2013