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Social housing maintenance firm fined for asbestos exposure

A company set up by Rotherham Council to manage and improve council houses faces a £10,000 bill, after allowing a plumber to be exposed to up to 50 times the legal limit for asbestos.

The firm, 2010 Rotherham Limited, was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,418 by Rotheram Magistrates Court for a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

The court heard that the company employed a sub-contactor, Nugas of Barnsley, to remove an old bathroom and install a level-access shower room at a house in Orchard Place.

Despite an asbestos survey carried out for 2010 Rotherham on a similar property next door eight weeks earlier revealing the presence of asbestos in the bathroom, the results were not passed on to Nugas.

The result was that their worker unknowingly removed tiles bonded to a wall of asbestos insulating board, causing significant damage to the wall. He was not wearing any protective clothing or respiratory protection.

At the same time, a licensed asbestos removal company was in the process of removing the same wall in the flat next door after being appointed by 2010 Rotherham Ltd.

The court was told that the company had received previous advice and enforcement action regarding the risks from asbestos during refurbishment work including two enforcement notices in 2005 and 2008.

The Health and Safety Executive brought a prosecution and the company pleaded guilty to health and safety breaches.

HSE inspector Dave Bradley said:  “The method of removal of the tiles by Nugas’s plumber, and the subsequent cleaning and bagging of the debris, are liable to have resulted in a significant exposure to asbestos fibres.

“It is imperative that information on the location of asbestos is provided to contractors before they are allowed to begin work. In this case 2010 Rotherham could have done this as they had the results from an asbestos survey on an identical property next door, and probably entirely prevented the asbestos fibre exposure.

“It is not enough for companies to have asbestos surveys carried out, they must take the necessary action and telling the contractor you employ is an obvious first step.”

Asbestos is the biggest single cause of work-related deaths in the UK, with an estimated 4,000 people dying every year.

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