Bury: Window replacement firm to pay out £35,000 after exposing workers to asbestos
09:09 15 February 2014
A window replacement company from Bury St Edmunds will have to pay out nearly £35,000 after it exposed workers to potentially fatal asbestos.
Workers at Frames Conservatories Direct Ltd (FCDL) were replacing window units at Westley Middle School over the summer of 2012. The company told the school that asbestos panels would be removed by registered contractors and disposed of in the correct way.
However Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court was told the company was not licensed to work with asbestos and employees undertaking the work weren’t told they would be handling the substance. No control measures were used to prevent the spread of fibres.
The health and safety breach also meant the school had to pay over £110,000 in cleaning and replacing contaminated items.
The matter was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after being alerted by the school’s headteacher as well as employees at FCDL.
Concerns were first raised when other contractors noticed suspect material in a floor void and consulted a licensed asbestos contractor who then visited the school. The contractor saw window panels being removed and notified FCDL employees that they were handling materials likely to contain asbestos. The work was immediately stopped and the area sealed off.
A licensed contractor undertook a programme of cleaning under strictly controlled conditions in all affected areas of the school. Once completed, air tests were carried out and the areas certified safe for re-occupation.
£111,495 was spent by the school environmental cleaning and replacement of teaching aids and other items that had to be destroyed because of contamination.
The company, of Barton Retail Park, Barton Road, Bury St Edmunds, was fined a total of £24,000 and ordered to pay £10,571 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching regulations 8(1) and 11(1) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Elizabeth Fowle said: “This incident has been extremely stressful for those affected and has also been disruptive and costly for the school. All of this could have been avoided if the company had simply asked, ‘Should we be doing this work with asbestos?’
“Frames Conservatories Direct Ltd knew the window panels they planned to remove contained asbestos but wrongly decided they would work with the material. They did not tell their employees about the presence of asbestos or specify any safety measures.
“As a result, they exposed workers to asbestos levels many times in excess of the Control Limit. The long term health risks associated with inhalation of asbestos fibres include lung cancer and mesothelioma.
“It was extremely fortunate that this work took place during the school holiday which meant that there were no pupils on site and few school staff.”