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How to avoid prosecution when instruction building or demolition works

Asbestos Refurbishment / Demolition Surveys are legally required prior to any such work in non-domestic properties. Home owners may also require a Refurbishment / Demolition Survey if instructing a company to undertake works within a domestic property built before 1999.

The responsibility falls to both the building owner (Duty Holder) and the contractor, as shown by a recent case in the North East of England, where both companies were fined a similar amount:

Prosecutions can come under the following Control of Asbestos Regulations, 2012:

  • Regulation 4 Duty to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises.
  • Regulation 5 Identification of the presence of asbestos.
  • Regulation 6 Assessment of work which exposes employees to asbestos.

You could similarly be prosecuted under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 Section 3 (1).

 The solution

Simply instructing an asbestos refurbishment / demolition survey prior to the commencement of the refurbishment project could have avoided the prosecutions mentioned above.

In this case, the survey (carried out competently) would have identified the Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM), and the accompanying advice would have seriously reduced the chance of disturbing asbestos materials.

If we were to carry out such a survey, we would provide guidance on any potential ways to contain and mitigate the ACM in-situ, or offer project management of the removal of asbestos items.

What happened in this case?

The contractor’s staff, working with no knowledge of the asbestos that was present, disturbed the material; which exposed them, and anyone nearby to a serious and wholly unnecessary risk.

In the case of one company, it cost them £21k in fine and costs, and £17k for the other.

Why is this important?

As pointed out by the HSE inspector, the disease caused by inhalation of asbestos fibres does not appear immediately, but is usually discovered years later. Still, around 5,000 people die prematurely in the UK per year as a result.

If you employ anyone, then you have obvious duties to protect them. If doing the work yourself, then you should safeguard your own health. Especially given how easy it is to just build a survey into your project plan.

By doing so, you will be helping your client to start to get on top of their own responsibilities – saving them time and money in any future work that may be planned.

 

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