A building contractor has been fined for ignoring asbestos safety rules after the potentially deadly material was discovered in a basement area at the independent Woldingham girls’ school in Caterham.
Buxton Building Contractors Ltd, which was carrying out refurbishment work at the school in 2011, had commissioned a specialist survey to identify the presence of asbestos in the undercroft part of the building, but then failed to act when the results were positive.
The firm allowed a number of different contractors, including a teenage apprentice, to work in the area until one worker raised the alarm himself when he broke through the ceiling and exposed asbestos insulation boarding.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the incident, which came to light on 21 July 2011, and subsequently prosecuted the company for safety breaches.
Guildford Crown Court was told that Buxton Building Contractors Ltd was the principal contractor for a scheme to remodel the school’s dining area and kitchen. The firm had asked a surveyor to look specifically at the undercroft area as it had been omitted from an earlier asbestos report.
HSE’s investigation found the survey had highlighted the presence of the hazardous material, however, Buxton Building Contractors had failed to act either to deal with it or to provide any safeguards on site. It had allowed unrestricted access by a variety of other workers, including a 19-year-old apprentice electrician who had been working in the undercroft for at least two weeks.
After the worker discovered the presence of the asbestos insulation board, the area was sealed off by a licensed asbestos contractor.
Buxton Building Contractors Ltd, of High Street, Caterham, Surrey, was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £26,217 after admitting a breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by failing to plan, manage and properly monitor the construction work at the school. Source - HSE Website
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