• Barroerock Construction Limited was fined £750,000 after repeated asbestos failings.
• The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) conducted two separate investigations of the company’s site in 2013 and 2014. At the time, Barroerock were converting a former large office building in Ashford, Kent into flats.
• The company knew that the building contained asbestos.
The first investigation undertaken by the HSE occurred after a routine inspection during one of the HSE’s refurbishment campaigns.
The Court was told that while a refurbishment and demolition (R&D) survey had been carried out and therefore asbestos had been identified and located in the building, the company had failed to act upon it. The company ignored the asbestos survey which resulted in up to 40 workers being exposed to asbestos during the early demolition phase of the project.
The second investigation resulted in a visit to the site in June 2014 after a series of complaints had been made about the health and safety practices there.
The HSE found that despite engaging a licensed asbestos contractor to remove the remaining asbestos materials, dangerous practices regarding the safe exposure of asbestos were continuing.
In addition, shockingly, the company was unable to provide the HSE when requested, documentation to establish 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.
The HSE’s prosecution was upon the basis that these incidents could have been prevented if Barroerock had ensured they had effective management controls in place to avoid the risk of exposure to asbestos. As a result, the court took a very dim view of the company’s position and fined them accordingly.
Barroerock Construction Limited pleaded guilty to two offences of Regulation 22 (1) (a) of the Construction Design and Management Regulations 2007 and were fined £750,000 and ordered to pay costs of £14,874.68.
HSE inspector Melvyn Stancliffe stated:
“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.”
Safety Smart Comment:
• Exposure to asbestos is associated with a number of diseases including mesothelioma, lung, larynx and stomach cancers, as well as asbestosis and pleural thickening, resulting in around 5000 deaths each year.
• 200 people were knowingly exposed to asbestos by this company. The only possible explanation for the breaches is that the company put the expediency of the job before the safety of the workers on site.
• The significant cost of the removal of asbestos although substantial, is no excuse to turn a blind eye to asbestos exposure, a proven cause of life threatening diseases which take thousands of lives year on year.