Two companies and contractor fined for releasing asbestos at Birmingham city centre office

Two Worcestershire companies and a contractor from Hall Green have been prosecuted for releasing asbestos fibres during an office refurbishment project in Birmingham city centre.

Inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) uncovered a series of failings during the refurbishment of 114-116 Colmore Row, work that included upgrading a lift containing asbestos insulating board.

Birmingham Magistrates’ Court heard how building owners Evanacre Colmore Row Ltd and project managers Marchment Consulting hired builder Roland Morewood to carry out work over the weekend of 29 January 2010.

When lift engineers arrived, they found pieces of asbestos insulating board spread around the lift shaft area and refused to carry on working.

HSE inspectors stopped all workers from going into the building until it had been decontaminated. Air tests taken on several floors of the premises revealed significantly high levels of asbestos fibres, which were also found in several vacuum cleaners.

Asbestos insulating board was found stored in Roland Morewood’s van, which itself was heavily contaminated with raised levels of asbestos fibres in the air. By law it should have been disposed of by a licensed contractor.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE principal inspector Richard Lockwood said:

“Asbestos is the biggest 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.

“Evanacre Colmore Row had an asbestos survey which clearly showed that asbestos was present in the lift. Marchment Consulting, which has expertise in building work, should have known how to deal with asbestos and materials containing its fibres in refurbishment projects.

“These companies decided not to use a licensed contractor to remove the asbestos insulating board but to get the work done over a weekend by an unlicensed contractor for a tenth of the cost.

“It is against the law for anyone to remove asbestos insulating board without a licence. Roland Morewood should never have carried out the work and did not take enough precautions to prevent the spread of asbestos fibres.

“Asbestos fibres were found to be at significant levels and if the alarm had not been raised, it is likely that people working on the refurbishment and office workers would have been breathing these fibres for some time.”

Evanacre Colmore Row Ltd, of Cottonfields New Road, Cutnall Green, Droitwich, pleaded guilty today to breaching Regulations 11(1)(a) and 16 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 and was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay £1,500 costs.

Marchment Consulting Ltd, of Kidderminster Road, Droitwich, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 11(1)(a) and 16 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 and was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay £1,500 costs.

Roland Morewood, of Mapleton Road, Hall Green, Birmingham, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 8(1) and 16 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 and fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £823 costs.

Source HSE