One contractor received a criminal record, being handed out a 100 hours community service sentence, with a further ten days Rehabilitation Activity after he employed untrained labourers to work on a building. They inadvertently disturbed asbestos and were seen by a member of the public working dangerously at height and spreading asbestos debris around the site.

Builder, Fahadh Rasheed was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court after he was employed by the council to convert a toilet block in Valentines Park, Ilford, into a community meeting centre. Unfortunately for Rasheed the building contained asbestos and his unskilled and untrained workers disturbed a significant amount of the dangerous asbestos insulation board present in the structure.

A member of the public reported this to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) after observing the workers on the roof, without scaffolding or any other safety measures, and asbestos fragments visible across the site.

What should have happened was the builder would have carried out a refurbishment and demolition asbestos survey before he began work and when the asbestos was found, before it was disturbed, a licensed asbestos removal company should have removed it.

Furthermore the workers should have been trained to spot the hazards. The building should have been scaffolded and when he engaged the workers the builder should have made sure they had the necessary skills, knowledge and experience, including working at heights and had asbestos awareness training.

After the court hearing HSE inspector David King said:

“This was a case of a contractor completely failing to grasp the importance of planning, managing and monitoring construction work to ensure the health and safety of construction workers.

Companies and their Directors should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

Duty to manage asbestos

Builders and contractors have a statutory duty to manage asbestos, included in the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. The duty requires them to manage the risk from asbestos by:

– finding out if there is asbestos in the premises (or assessing if asbestos containing materials (ACMs) are liable to be present and making a presumption that materials contain asbestos,

unless there is strong evidence that they do not), its location and what condition it is in;

– making and keeping an up-to-date record of the location and condition of the ACMs or presumed ACMs in the premises;

– assessing the risk from the material;

– preparing a plan that sets out in detail how it is going to be managed as a risk from this material;

– taking the steps needed to put the plan into action;

– reviewing and monitoring the plan and the arrangements made to put it in place; and

– setting up a system for providing information on the location and condition of the material to anyone who is liable to work on or disturb it.

The dutyholder

All non-domestic buildings, whatever the type of business, are affected by the regulations on asbestos. They also include the common areas of domestic buildings, eg HMO’s halls, stairwells, lift shafts, roof spaces, All other domestic properties are not affected by the duty to manage.

Anyone who has information on the whereabouts of asbestos in premises is required to make this available to the dutyholder, but those undertaking work will need to assess its reliability. Those who are not dutyholders, but control access to the premises, have to co-operate with contractors in managing the asbestos.

You are a ‘dutyholder’ if you own the building; you are responsible through a contract or tenancy agreement; you have control of the building but no formal contract or agreement; or in a multi-occupancy building, you are the owner and have taken responsibility for maintenance and repairs for the whole building.

A refurbishment/demolition survey – HSE

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