Development company fined £5,500 following asbestos contraventions

A development company that exposed both employees and others to the risks of asbestos during renovation work has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Stonehouse Design and Build Limited, based in Houndiscombe Road, Mutley, Plymouth, Devon, was charged with health and safety breaches under the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002, following renovation work at the former Sharksfin Hotel at The Quay in Mevagissey, Cornwall, between December 2005 and July 2006.

The company was charged with breaching Regulation 15 (relating to the spread of asbestos) and Regulation 16 (1) (a) (relating to the failure to keep the site clean). Having pleaded guilty to both charges, Stonehouse Design and Build Ltd was fined £2,700 for the each of the breaches then ordered to pay part costs of £8,267 at Bodmin Magistrates Courts yesterday (8 December 2009).

Stonehouse Design and Build Limited bought the former hotel site in order to convert the building into apartments. During the course of the renovation work, asbestos was disturbed and HSE was notified in confidence that the hazardous material was not being removed under appropriate controlled conditions. This included the illegal disposal of asbestos materials alongside general waste, designated for general landfill waste. Work at the site was halted by HSE inspectors in July 2009 and the asbestos was removed under licensed conditions then the site decontaminated by a specialist team.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector, Martin Lee, said:

“We have just been running an asbestos awareness campaign called ‘The Hidden Killer’ precisely to highlight the dangers of this potentially lethal material to tradesmen such as those working at the former Sharksfin Hotel site.

“The dangers of exposure to asbestos cannot be underestimated. In Cornwall alone, 250 men died from mesothelioma caused by asbestos between 1981 and 2005 (latest figures available). This figure will continue to rise unless we can educate tradesmen about the dangers of asbestos and why this is relevant to them.

“We want them to change the way they work so that they don’t put their lives at risk. The most simple, but important advice is, if any worker or developer is not 100 per cent certain that there is no asbestos on site, then work should not begin before the facts are known. It is not worth the long-term risk.”

Notes to editors
1.Stonehouse Design and Build Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 15 of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 in that: ‘it failed to prevent or, where this was not reasonably practicable, reduce to the lowest level reasonably practicable, the spread of asbestos from any place where work under its control was being carried out namely at the former Sharksfin Hotel…’
2.Stonehouse Design and Build Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 16 (1) (a) of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 in that: it failed to ensure that the premises, namely the former Sharksfin Hotel, or those parts of the premises where the work was being carried out and the plant used in connection with that work were kept in a clean state…’