Contractor fined after homeowners exposed to asbestos

Columbus Building Contractors Ltd. has been fined after it exposed workers and homeowners to potentially fatal asbestos material during work on a garage extension at a home in Ipswich.

The Suffolk-based contractor was found guilty of breaching asbestos safety regulations when carrying out a single-storey front garage extension and a kitchen conversion to the property between 8th May and 2nd August 2012.

Speaking after the hearing at Ipswich Magistrates’ Court, HSE inspector Adam Hills said that the incident was entirely preventable.

The court was told that the garage had an asbestos insulating board (AIB) ceiling that acted as a fire break between it and the rest of the house. The boards were removed during the conversion work, broken up and placed on the homeowners’ front lawn.

Contrary to regulations, debris was dropped into open bags. It was only when one of the homeowners transported it via car to the local tip when the possibility of asbestos was identified.

HSE investigates

At the hearing, it emerged that Columbus Building Contractors should have engaged a licensed contractor to remove any asbestos material and conduct an environmental clean under fully-controlled conditions.

HSE inspector Mr Hills said: “Columbus Building Contractors had worked with this type of material before and had asbestos knowledge.

“They questioned the presence of asbestos materials in the ceiling but made no efforts to obtain an asbestos survey or take samples for analysis to establish if asbestos was contained within the ceiling.

“After removal, the asbestos material was simply left on the front lawn before being bagged in open sacks and transported to the local tip by the homeowner. Both the workers and homeowner would have been exposed to a significant amount of asbestos fibres during these works.”

It is “absolutely essential” that assumptions are not made when dealing with suspected asbestos materials, he added. “If in doubt, get it checked by a professional before starting any work.”

“The dangers of exposure are well-known in the industry. There are long-term health risks associated with inhalation of asbestos fibres including lung cancer and mesothelioma.”

Columbus Building Contractors Ltd. of Crofton Road, Ipswich, Suffolk, was fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay £6,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching regulations 8(1) and 11(1)(a) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

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