A Bristol-based company has been fined for putting its workers at risk of asbestos-related diseases while working on a property in the city.
Frank Bruce and Company pleaded guilty at Bristol Magistrates in relation to refurbishment work at Lawrence Hill Industrial Park in the city during February and March 2009.
The court heard Health and Safety Executive inspectors visited industrial units where the property firm had organised refurbishment work involving the removal of a large quantity of asbestos insulation board without taking statutory safety precautions.
This led to exposure of the workers to the asbestos and also the contamination of the units being renovated.
The court heard the company plead guilty to breaches under Regulation 14 of the Construction (Design and Management) [CDM] Regulations 2007 by failing to appoint a CDM-coordinator or principal contractor for notifiable construction work and Regulation 4 (10) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations by failing to review or implement a plan to manage materials containing asbestos.
Frank Bruce and Co was fined £18,000 for breaching the regulations and ordered to pay £6,679 costs.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Sue Adsett said: "The decision not to have large quantities of asbestos insulation board removed by licensed contractors before the general refurbishment work began, put the workers at risk and contaminated the site.
"The work was stopped and the defendant paid to make the site safe, but this doesn't change the fact that seven construction workers were exposed to asbestos, which we know can cause fatal diseases.
"Landlords and property developers need to be very wary of organising construction work themselves if they haven't got appropriate experience of managing health and safety in building projects."
Around 500,000 buildings built before 2000 could contain asbestos, according to HSE estimates. If managed properly and kept in good condition, asbestos need not pose safety concerns.
Landlords need to arrange for 'Type 3' surveys to be done before refurbishment or demolition and pass this information on to builders before asking them to start work. Some asbestos products - such as Asbestos Insulation Boards or Asbestos Insulation - can only be removed by specially licensed contractors.