A Birmingham-based university has been fined, along with a security systems firm, after two workers were exposed to dangerous asbestos fibres while fitting CCTV cameras.
The worker and a 17-year-old trainee were installing the cameras in the reception area at Aston University’s Recreation Centre on 21 July 2009 when they drilled into material containing asbestos fibres.
Both the university and Warwickshire-based Access Fire and Security Ltd – the contractor carrying out the work – were prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following the incident.
Birmingham Magistrates’ Court heard the university failed to follow its own procedures on managing, planning and preparing for the installation and the arrangements were unclear and not widely known within the university.
Aston University, of Aston Triangle, Birmingham, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 5(1) of the Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999 and Regulation 4(9)(c) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 and was fined £4,000 and ordered to pay £2,000 costs.
Access Fire and Security Ltd, which operates from a unit in Henley Court, Henley-in-Arden, and is registered at an address in Yardley Wood, Billesley, Birmingham, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 5(a) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 and was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £1,000 costs.
Karl Raw, the investigating inspector at HSE, said:
“While the amount of asbestos involved in this incident was small, two people now have to live with the knowledge that they may become ill from lung disease in the future.
“Aston University failed to ensure university employees and others working across the site were aware of the presence of asbestos fibres.
“Surveys on the location and conditions of asbestos and materials containing asbestos had been carried out across the university but there was no procedure for communicating the details to contractors.
“Access Fire and Security Ltd, a long-term contractor with the university, had never been given any information about asbestos – and had never asked for it. They also failed to assess whether asbestos was present, what type of asbestos was involved and what condition it was in, before undertaking work.”
Asbestos is the biggest single cause of work-related deaths in the UK, with an estimated 4,000 people dying every year. Information on working safely with asbestos is available at www.hse.go.uk/asbestos.