School asbestos removal company fined

An Oxford based company has been fined £20,000 after disturbing asbestos insulation board (AIB) at a school in Northampton.

The company was contracted to carry out refurbishment work on the school's roof. In November 2014, workers employed by the company disturbed AIB in a small plant room.

An investigation into the asbestos in schools incident by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found there were failings in the company's project management arrangements.

Asbestos removal contractors' duty

Under regulation 13 (2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 the company had a duty to plan, manage and monitor construction work in a way which ensured that, so far as was reasonably practicable, it was carried out without risks to health and safety.

Any buildings constructed before the complete ban on the use of asbestos in November 1999 may present a risk of exposure to asbestos containing materials. Although there is a legal requirement for building owners to identify and log the whereabouts of asbestos, it is not always known.

The HSE held that the company should have monitored and identified any asbestos materials during this specific roof refurbishment work at the school and ensured that key personnel had suitable asbestos awareness training and personal protective equipment (PPE).

The company accepted that it had neglected to follow these regulations, and pleaded guilty to the breach.

Asbestos Risks

Asbestos is a class 1 carcinogen and poses serious health risks to anyone exposed to it. The HSE has run several campaigns to raise awareness of asbestos exposure and urges contractors to consider that it may be present at every stage of a construction project.

Any company failing to carry out the appropriate checks may expose its workers, the building's occupants and the public to the risk of ingesting or inhaling asbestos fibres, if asbestos is present in the building.

The impact - Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a relatively rare cancer that forms on the protective lining of certain parts of the body, most commonly the lungs or abdomen. It is usually a result of inhaling asbestos fibres and can develop even after exposure to relatively low levels or where the exposure took place over a relatively short period of time.

15 to 40 years may elapse after exposure to asbestos before mesothelioma develops, with some people showing no symptoms at all in the early stages.

Claiming compensation

Asbestos-related compensation claims arise where staff, their families, or members of the public develop illness as a result of exposure to asbestos fibres, and that exposure was the result of another party's negligence.

For more information regarding the claims process for historic or recent asbestos exposure, call Quittance on 0800 612 7456 to speak to a specialist about your options.

Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher

Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher