A North West based demolition contractor has been sentenced to 24 weeks imprisonment for exposing his employees, and potentially the public, to asbestos fibres during the demolition of a training centre in Oldham.

An asbestos survey had been undertaken by a surveyor recommended by the Demo Contractor.  Approximately 230M3 of asbestos materials had been identified in the former training centre.  Despite the confirmation of the potentially deadly materials, the demo contractor chose to demolish the buildings without the asbestos being removed.

Three employees worked on the project are likely to have been exposed to asbestos fibres and due to the uncontrolled approach to demolishing the building, the pubic have also been placed at risk by the Demolition Contractor.

The demolition contractor has been sentenced to 24 weeks imprisonment for failing to protect his employees, failing to protect others, removing asbestos without a license and failure to prevent the spread of asbestos.

The Health and Safety Executive press release on the prosecution is available on their website.

Lessons To Be Learnt:

asbestos awareness training

  • Thorough Sub-Contractor Vetting Must Be Undertaken

  • Sub-contractor Monitoring Visits Must Take  Place

  • Demolition Phase Health and Safety Plans Must Be Checked

  • Ensure Employees now the Risks of Asbestos Exposure and Know How to Identify It.

What You Need to Do Now To Protect Yourself:

Sub-Contractor Vetting

Even without starting the vetting process, if one subcontractor is markedly less expensive than others, it is highly likely they are cutting corners somewhere.  This should ring alarm bells and the specification of works they are providing must be compared like for like against the other tendering subcontractors.

The sub-contractor vetting process is a requirement of the CDM Regulations. So, what needs to be  checked?  Here’s a few of the key points:

  • Valid insurance
  • Health and Safety Policy in place
  • Risk Assessments and Method Statements Suitable and Sufficient
  • Staff are trained and there is a plan in place to ensure training does not lapse
  • Any sub-contractors that they appoint are subjected to the same vetting process
  • Number of accidents per year and the actions taken to prevent recurrence
  • Enforcement notices are declared and actions taken to prevent recurrence explained.

There is an accreditation scheme in the UK called SSIP Level 1 which ensures applicants meet their key criteria.  Such companies are SMAS, Constructionline, SafecontractorSafemark all check the same criteria which is seen as the basic benchmark of health and safety competence.  Click the links to be taken to their sites to see current requirements and pricing.  You can take some reassurance that if the sub-contractor you choose is accredited to one of these schemes that they do understand their duties and responsibilities plus their paperwork is in order.  However, what happens on paper is not always what happens on site.

Undertake Sub-Contractor Monitoring Visits

Construction Health and Safety Inspections are a valuable exercise in monitoring the health and safety standards within your company.  It demonstrates a pro-active approach to health and safety management and rings alarm bells to allow action to be taken before a person is injured or a breach of legislation occurs.

If a sub-contractor is appointed in a Principal Contractor capacity, as a demo contractors or groundworkers often are, the client should still undertake health and safety inspections to ensure the appointed subcontractor is carrying out the works in a legal manner as per their specification.  It also protects the reputation of the client as the public are not interested if it is a sub-contractor who is endangering people, they see the clients board up and tar them with the same brush.

The findings of the health and safety inspections should also be considered on future projects.  Were actions closed out in a timely manner?  Were the same issues being  identified month after month?  How serious were the issues raised? Did work have to stop or were they advisory actions?  It is also an opportunity to check the records and plans on site are being updated as the project progresses.

Health and Safety Management Plans Must Be in Place

The Principal Designer for the Project should not issue Authorisation to Commence Construction Activity until the Health and Safety Plan for the works has been appraised and it considered suitable and sufficient.

Any construction or demolition phase plan is a live document which needs adding to and amending as the project progresses.  There are also statutory records which must be kept up to date for Plant and Working Platforms.  Temporary works, particularly in demolition must be managed and signed off by the relevant competent persons.

It is important that the site paperwork is kept up to date and communicated to those that it affects.  The monthly health and safety inspection is an opportunity to monitor this.

Good record keeping could also provide you with a defence in the event of a personal injury claim or prosecution.  Day to day records such as the Site Manager’s diary, induction and training records can be invaluable in defence as well as being the easiest way to see who is competent.  Employers have a duty to ensure their employees are trained.  In this case, the employees should have been able to identify asbestos and its fibres.  A simple, low -cost online training course could have prevented the three individuals facing years of not knowing if they are going to develop an asbestos related illness.

Asbestos Awareness Training For All Employees

The course is short and can be done online.  Costs are usually around £35+VAT and the course takes about 1 hour.  For people working in the construction industry, it really is a basic requirement which will allow them to protect themselves and others.

You can do module one of the course by clicking through here – Asbestos Awareness Training Free Trial