Workers put ‘at risk’ by asbestos exposure
Repeated asbestos failings by a London construction firm have landed the company a £750,000 fine.
Barroerock Construction pleaded guilty to two health and safety offences after it was found the contractor had failed to prevent its workers being exposed to asbestos while converting a 1960s office block to flats in Ashford, Kent.
A first Health & Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into working practices at the site in 2013 revealed that although a refurbishment and demolition survey had been carried out, the firm had failed to act upon it during the project’s early demolition phase.
This resulted in up to 40 workers at the site being exposed to the dangerous minerals.
After complaints about the standard of health and safety at the site - with asbestos being discovered behind one of the walls - HSE returned to carry out a second inspection in 2014 and found that the company’s dangerous practices had been continuing.
This was despite Barroerock Construction having engaged a licensed asbestos contractor to remove the hazardous materials. The firm were unable to provide documentation showing that the identified asbestos had been removed correctly.
Around 160 people were working on the site when work was halted for the second time.
The incidents could have been prevented if the firm had put effective management controls in place to negate the risk of asbestos exposure, the HSE investigations concluded.
Melvyn Stancliffe, inspector at HSE, said that the company had been “reckless”.
He added: “The company’s failings put many workers at risk to the exposure of asbestos. 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.”
The fine is one of the largest ever handed out by the courts for asbestos failings.