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Thu February 25 2021

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Communication breakdown exposes foreman to deadly fibres

9 May 14 When an asbestos survey highlights the known presence of asbestos insulating board (AIB), it makes sense to let the team on site know about it.

However, a Battersea building firm failed to do this and as a result left the foreman and his team exposed to deadly fibres.

Redwood Contractors Ltd was yesterday fined £10,000 for its communication failure in a in a prosecution brought by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).

Redwood Contractors Ltd was in possession of a detailed asbestos survey that clearly identified the location of the asbestos wall panels inside a warehouse it was refurbishing at Molly Millars Close in Wokingham.

However, the survey was not shared with the team on the ground. So when a foreman mistook the AIB for lower-risk asbestos cement it was removed without adequate control measures and protective equipment. He and others could therefore have inhaled asbestos fibres without knowing it.

Reading Magistrates’ Court heard that AIB should only be removed by a licensed asbestos contractor because of the risk of exposure to the dangerous fibres contained within it.

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HSE established that the site foreman wasn’t provided with any documentation or other information about the panels. This was despite an asbestos survey being completed just two months prior to the work starting.

Redwood Contractors Ltd, of Battersea Rise, London, SW11, was fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay £2,857 in costs after pleading guilty to two separate breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.

HSE inspector Karen Morris said after the hearing: “What is the point of having a suitable survey in hand if you aren’t going to act on it and share vital information with those who need to know? Sadly, breakdowns in communication of this kind are all too common, but that doesn’t excuse Redwood Contractors from failing to do more.

“The company is guilty of a clear oversight that may have compromised the future health and wellbeing of its workers. Everyone knows that asbestos is a potential killer, and the onus is on duty holders to implement proper control measures at all times when dealing with asbestos.”

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