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Wednesday, 1 April

Newnham College Cambridge Lands Asbestos Failings Fine

The hotel in Truro where a 'refurbishment' led to a company and an individual appearing in court

Newnham College Cambridge has been fined for failings that exposed employees and subcontractors to asbestos during refurbishment of a flat owned by the college.

Cambridge Magistrates’ Court heard that in March 2018, employees of Newnham College and subcontractors were carrying out a refurbishment of a flat on Grange Road, Cambridge when asbestos insulation debris was discovered in the floor voids after work had been carried out in them.

No asbestos refurbishment survey was carried out prior to insulation debris being found. One employee, who contaminated his gloves and clothing with loose asbestos debris, did not have asbestos awareness training and spread asbestos from his clothing outside the flat.

 

Investigation

 

An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that there was inadequate planning and management of the refurbishment work.

On January 15, the College pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 5 and 16 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,450.28.

 

Untreatable

 

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Sandra Dias said: “Asbestos surveys need to be carried out prior to refurbishment works which disturbs the fabric of a building. Asbestos is still present in hidden locations in buildings and needs to be located before work starts that could potentially expose individuals."

 

“Asbestos related diseases are currently untreatable and claim the lives of an estimated 5,000 people per year in the UK.”

– Sandra Dias

HSE inspector

 

Truro hotel

 

Meanwhile, property owner Michael Cutmore and building contractors B and S BM Limited have both been sentenced after a refurbishment project of an old hotel was found to contain asbestos containing materials (ACMs) on site while work was still taking place.

Truro Crown Court heard that during September 2017 a property in Island Crescent, Newquay was to be partially demolished and refurbished under the control of one of its owners (Michael Cutmore). The hotel had been left derelict for several years, allowing it to be subject to vandalism and squatting. It had been 'soft-stripped' by its owner.

Asbestos surveys identified the presence of ACMs, yet these were not managed appropriately nor removed prior to the work. Local building contractors, B and S BM Limited were appointed by the hotel’s second co-owner to carry out works in half of the property while Mr Cutmore himself also stripped asbestos from within the former hotel.

 

Proactive inspection

 

During a proactive inspection, the HSE identified that the former hotel was being refurbished and partially demolished whilst ACMs remained in-situ. Some of these ACMs were licensable products (e.g. asbestos insulating board which contains amosite). Due to the extent of the spread of asbestos dust and debris throughout the building and the lack of adequate control measures, workers and visitors to the properties were at risk of exposure to asbestos fibres.

 

Sentence

 

B and S BM Limited of Prow Park, Newquay pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The company was fined £22,000 and ordered to pay costs of £5,000.

Michael Cutmore pleaded guilty to breaching S3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and has been ordered to carry out 120 hours unpaid work and ordered to pay costs of £7,500.

 

Appropriate enforcement action

 

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Georgina Speake said: “Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards. The dangers associated with asbestos are well known and a wealth of advice and guidance is freely available from HSE and other organisations.”

 

Picture: The hotel in Truro where a 'refurbishment' led to a company and an individual appearing in court. 

Article written by Brian Shillibeer

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