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homeFriday 22nd September 2017

31k fine following illegal asbestos removal

Katie Coyne22/03/2017 - 15:24

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Lichfield District Council
Lichfield District Council

Wetenhall Properties in Staffordshire has been fined £31k plus £4k costs after it employed a handyman to remove asbestos who was not qualified to do so.

Thirty five year-old handyman Daniel Hepple from Tamworth was not adequately trained or licensed in the removal of asbestos and was also fined £480 plus £1,000 in costs.

The Lichfield-based firm carried out an asbestos survey as a requirement to re-finance the building. However, the survey found asbestos insulation board (AIB) lining the doors as a fire retardant.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Control of Asbestos Regulations at Cannock Magistrates’ Court. Mr Hepple pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Deputy district judge, David Goodman OBE, at the sentencing of Wetenhall Properties said the way in which the works had been carried out was a cost cutting exercise and there was no regard for the occupants of the building.

Gareth Davies, head of regulatory services, housing & wellbeing at Lichfield District Council, said: ‘We take breaches in health and safety very seriously. Companies have a responsibility to their workers and landlords to their tenants to protect their health and safety.

‘The serious health risks of asbestos are well known and publicised. Any maintenance work done in buildings built before the year 2000 must consider and manage the risk of possible asbestos containing materials, as failure to do so places workers, building occupants and the public at risk to possible exposure to asbestos fibres.

‘We are reminding local employers and landlords to contact HSE licensed asbestos removal companies if they think or are unsure whether any building maintenance work will disturb asbestos containing materials.’

The asbestos survey advised Wetenhall Properties to remove the AIB and they obtained a quote from an HSE licensed removal company that recommended removing the whole door, to leave the AIB intact, as the safest removal method and in line with HSE guidance.

However, Mr Cooper of Wetenhall Properties asked Mr Hepple, who did odd jobs for the company, to remove the panels. And Mr Hepple removed the AIB off the door rather than removing the whole door resulting in the AIB breaking and asbestos fibres potentially being released and exposing tenants and visitors.

An anonymous complaint alerted the council’s environmental health department. Jane Hall, EHO and investigating officer, was initially misled by Mr Cooper who provided documentation relating to an air monitoring company and the involvement of an HSE licensed asbestos removal company.

They became after the initial removal of the AIB and after the tenants of the building demanded that Mr Cooper deal properly with the asbestos removal.

Further investigation following another complaint found that Mr Hepple had removed the asbestos in an unsafe manner by prising the boarding off the doors causing the AIB to break up. He then hoovered up the debris with a domestic vacuum, which would have spread the fibres.

Tenants pressed for an air tests and an air monitoring company was called and the results revealed no presence of asbestos fibres.

A disturbance test was not carried out as they did not want to disturb any fibres that might have settled. But when debris was found on the doors and handles by tenants an HSE licenced contractor was called to remove the doors and carry out an environmental clean. During this process air tests were also carried out. 

 

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