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A Building Contractor based in Ipswich, Suffolk has been fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay £6,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching the ‘Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012’.
The Building Contractors were employed by the Ipswich homeowners mid 2012 to build a single-story front garage extension and a kitchen conversion. The garage ceiling contained asbestos in the form of AIB, Asbestos Insulating Board, which would have first been installed to act as a fire break between the garage and the main house. Prior to starting the renovation, no Asbestos surveys were carried out nor samples taken and analysed.
As the building work proceeded, the AIBs were removed, broken up and then placed in open bags and left on the front lawn of the property before one of the homeowners took them to a local tip where the possibility of asbestos was identified.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral which has been mined and used for commercial and domestic purposes for many years. Amphibole or straight-fibre types are much more dangerous than chrysotile, which has long slender fibres, is less easily inhaled and is cleared from the lung tissue more rapidly. When someone disturbs an asbestos-containing-product, they release the microscopic fibres into the air. If inhaled, these thin fibres become trapped in the lungs. Over periods of time, they can accumulate and cause inflammation, scarring and other critical health problems. In some cases the fibres can even trigger the development of lung cancer.
The dangers of Asbestos have been known for over a century, yet it wasn’t until the 1970’s that its widespread use was limited and prevented. In our present day strict regulations govern its removal ensuring workers and others are not exposed to the hazardous substance.
In the case of the Ipswich catastrophe, another contractor undertook waste removal of the remaining asbestos material and conducted an environmental clean under fully controlled conditions.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Adam Hills said:
“This is an incident that was entirely preventable. Columbus Building Contractors had worked with this type of material before and had asbestos knowledge. They questioned the presence of asbestos materials in the ceiling but made no efforts to obtain an asbestos survey or take samples for analysis to establish if asbestos was contained within the ceiling.
After removal, the asbestos material was simply left on the front lawn before being bagged in open sacks and transported to the local tip by the homeowner. Both the workers and homeowner would have been exposed to a significant amount of asbestos fibres during these works.
It is absolutely essential that assumptions are not made when dealing with suspected asbestos materials. If in doubt, get it checked by a professional before starting any work.”
The dangers of exposure are well-known in the industry. There are long-term health risks associated with inhalation of asbestos fibres including lung cancer and mesothelioma.”
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