Council fined after putting worker in asbestos danger

Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council has been fined after sending an employee to deal with a water leak in a housing complex without warning him asbestos was present.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the council after it failed to warn the trained plumber that asbestos was present at a sheltered accommodation complex, despite possessing a survey detailing where it was.

Nuneaton Magistrates Court heard that on 17 August 2009 the employee was sent to Craddock Court in the town after a leak was reported. He found the faulty pipe in a ceiling void on the first floor of the building after removing an asbestos insulation board (AIB) ceiling sheet.

As the worker was unaware he was dealing with asbestos, he used a hand saw to cut part of the AIB sheet to gain access to the leaking pipe. He stood directly underneath the tile while sawing the material for around 20 minutes and though covered in dust was not wearing any personal protective clothing.

Nuneaton and Bedworth BC pleaded guilty to a breach of Regulation 4(9)(c) and Regulation 11(1) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006. The council was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,140.

HSE inspector Mike Ford said:

“This case is particularly disappointing as we expect more from local authorities who actually have a duty to enforce the law concerning asbestos, and should be setting a good example.

“The dangers of asbestos are well known in the building industry so for Nuneaton and Bedworth BC not to inform its employee of its presence showed a major failing in the Council’s procedures at that time.

“The council had in its possession an asbestos survey for Craddock Court which included the details of the AIB above the first floor corridor.

“It is equally distressing that the work was being carried out in a public area of a sheltered accommodation complex. We can’t stress enough how important it is for anyone carrying out building work to obtain the proper asbestos surveys and then act upon them.”