Edinburgh council fined £14,000

Edinburgh Council have been fined £14,000

after 14 of its employees, were potentially exposed to asbestos while carrying out refurbishment work.

The workers, including joiners, had been instructed to remove laboratory doors from Castlebrae Community High School back in April 2007 and carry out alterations at the council’s workshop on Murrayburn Road. This involved cutting the doors which disturbed the asbestos core inside.

The council pleaded guilty at Edinburgh Sheriff Court of breaching the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006, Regulations 4 (9)(c)(i), 6(1), 11(1)(a) and 7(1).

The court heard how the council had failed to keep accurate records of the location and condition of asbestos and did not have suitable procedures in place to inform those working on or near the substance that it was there.

HSE inspector Mike Orr commented after the case:

“The risks from asbestos are well known and it is imperative that precautions to manage those risks are put in place. City of Edinburgh Council should have been well aware of its responsibilities. Its failings are clear.

“Although the council had carried out a survey of the premises which identified the asbestos core in the doors, there was no register on the school site and the summary provided to workers wasn’t sufficient to alert them to the danger.

“The council did not carry out a sufficient risk assessment prior to the work commencing in 2007.

“It is important to stress that many buildings, including schools, contain asbestos. If it remains undisturbed and is in good condition it should not be a cause for concern.

“As this case demonstrates, those most likely to be at risk from asbestos are tradesmen. Every week, 20 tradesmen die from asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma – an incurable cancer.

“This case should serve as a warning to property owners or those who manage buildings to ensure they have robust arrangements in place to manage the risks from asbestos.”

HSE recently re-launched its ‘Asbestos: the hidden killer’ campaign which aims to raise awareness of the risks of asbestos amongst tradesmen. For more information visit www.hse.gov.uk/hiddenkiller