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Council And Decorating Firm Prosecuted For Asbestos Failings


Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

North Warwickshire Borough Council and a Birmingham decorating firm have been fined after workers were exposed to potentially deadly asbestos.

Leamington Spa Magistrates’ Court heard that the council was refurbishing its community centre in Eastlang Road, Fillongley, on 13 March 2012 when it sent a contractor, Intal Decorators Limited, to remove an asbestos insulation board.

Instead of the material being removed from the site under controlled conditions by a licensed contractor, it was spread around the site by the Intal’s staff.

The situation came to light when other tradesmen on the site realised what was happening and reported it to managers, which led to a visit from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

An investigation carried out by the HSE revealed North Warwickshire Borough Council had undertaken a survey detailing the presence of asbestos, but had failed to pass information on to Intal Decorators Limited.

The firm had also failed to carry out its own assessment of the insulation boards to check whether asbestos was present.

North Warwickshire Borough Council, of South Street, Atherstone, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 for failing to provide sufficient information and instruction to its contractors regarding the presence, nature and scope of work involving asbestos. It was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,200.

Intal Decorators Limited, of Rough Road, Birmingham, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 5 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 for removing asbestos-containing materials without carrying out an assessment. It was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay a further £500 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Paul Cooper said: “Refurbishment and demolition work must be planned and carefully thought through, especially where asbestos may be present. It is reasonable to expect North Warwickshire Borough Council to have planned its work in such a way that workers were not put at risk of exposure to this deadly material.

 “Intal Decorators Limited should have undertaken an assessment of the risks involved in its activities at the community centre, and fulfilled its responsibilities as a contractor and employer to protect those on site.

 “As a result of these failures Intal employees, and potentially other tradesmen on site, were exposed to harmful asbestos fibres.”

Expert Opinion
Asbestos-related illnesses and exposure to asbestos are considered to be an historic problem, and not relevant today, because the use of new asbestos products in construction was prohibited many years ago and the illnesses which this deadly dust cause can take decades to develop.

“Prosecutions such as this highlight that this is a very real current problem, given how many buildings still contain asbestos building materials.

“We work with people on a daily basis who have been exposed to asbestos and who have developed the most severe illnesses, to get them the justice they deserve from their past employers who took a chance with asbestos and ignored the risks. The priority is to stop exposure happening in the first place. There is no excuse for taking chances with asbestos in this day and age.

“Many public buildings over recent years have been found to contain asbestos and we have campaigned for a register of all council owned buildings so that the dangerous material can be identified and removed, or at the very least handled under properly controlled conditions.

“Employers who expose their staff to asbestos in unprotected conditions are playing Russian Roulette with their workers' lives.”
Alida Coates, Partner