A Birmingham handyman has been prosecuted after releasing asbestos fibres while refurbishing a kitchen at a flat in Solihull.
Inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found William Rogers, a carpenter and general handyman, had removed partition walls containing asbestos insulating board at the premises in Masons Way, Olton, on 27 January 2011.
Solihull Magistrates’ Court heard Mr Rogers had wrongly assumed he was dealing with asbestos cement, and went ahead with the job. As a result, both he and the tenant, who has asked not to be named, were potentially exposed to asbestos dust.
Mr Rogers spread asbestos debris in the kitchen and on the communal stairs and loaded the removed pieces of asbestos insulating board into his car. By law it should have been disposed of by an approved carrier of asbestos waste.
The incident was discovered when a licensed asbestos removal contractor, who was working elsewhere in the building, spotted pieces of asbestos outside and alerted HSE. The court heard the area and Mr Rogers’ car had to be decontaminated.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE principal inspector Jo Anderson said:
“Tradespeople are highly likely to come across asbestos at some point in their career. They must make sure they are properly trained so that they can identify it and know what to do next and there is a wealth of guidance available on HSE’s website to help them.
“If they have not checked what kind of asbestos is present and they have not been trained to work with asbestos, they must not start work.
“The landlord had told William Rogers that the walls contained asbestos, yet he went ahead with the refurbishment without carrying out any checks. The tenant now has to live with the knowledge that he is at risk of developing a serious lung disease in years to come through no fault of his own.
“It is against the law for anyone to remove asbestos insulating board without a licence. Mr Rogers should never have disturbed this material, and he left a significant amount of asbestos debris in the building.
“It is fortunate that a licensed contractor alerted us to the incident on the day and as a result the contamination was dealt with promptly.”
William Rogers, of Rowlands Way, Yardley, pleaded guilty today to breaching Regulation 5 and Regulation 11(1)(a) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006. He was fined £600 and ordered to pay £1,799 costs.
Asbestos is the biggest single cause of occupational deaths in the UK, with an estimated 4,000 people dying every year from related diseases such as mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Information on working safely with asbestos is available at https://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/hiddenkiller/index.htm, which is specifically aimed at advising tradespeople on how to deal with asbestos, and www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos.