Plumbing company fined after workers exposed to asbestos

Published:  12 December, 2012

Significant safety failures by a plumbing company may have led to two workers being exposed to dangerous asbestos fibres during a major refurbishment project on flats in Wales.

The site manager and a subcontractor were not provided with information about the presence of asbestos while working at the flats in Aberystwyth between November 2010 and February 2011.

Superior Plumbing Installations, the principal contractor at the site, appeared before Aberystwyth Magistrates on 10 December in a prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The court heard that a routine inspection by HSE found contractors carrying out refurbishment work without taking account of asbestos that may have been present.

Workers had removed 82 metres of cement board, which a survey had identified as 'presumed to contain asbestos', by breaking it up with a hammer and shovelling it into a wheelbarrow before putting it in a general waste skip. The contractor was due to do the same on two other properties, one of which had asbestos confirmed in the soffits.

HSE found that Superior Plumbing had made no effort to obtain surveys that existed for the properties to determine if asbestos was present in the flats or assess the risk of working with asbestos on the site.

The firm also failed to make a plan to properly deal with its removal and hired a site manager for the scheme who had not been given asbestos awareness training.

Superior Plumbing Installations, Swindon, pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £3,830 in costs.

HSE inspector Phil Nicolle said: "Superior Plumbing's failure to follow advice, guidance and their own procedures to identify the presence of asbestos and plan for its safe removal has needlessly created a serious long term risk to workers' health.

"Contractors must ensure an asbestos survey has been carried out where a building - or part of it - needs upgrading, refurbishment or demolition. The survey must locate and identify all asbestos-containing material before any structural work begins and appropriate arrangements put in place to deal with any asbestos containing materials that are uncovered.”