Nottingham Crown Court was told today that James Roger Carlton, also known as Roger Stephen Parry, 64, of South Leverton, near Retford, disregarded the presence of asbestos insulation board at the site of the former King Edward VI School on London Road, Retford.
He knew the potentially dangerous material formed part of the pre-fabricated buildings on the site, but ignored advice on its safe removal.
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) visited the school, which was being converted into a retirement complex, on 1 March 2012 during a construction safety blitz. An inspector identified the type of building, which is known to contain asbestos, and gave Mr Carlton advice on what he needed to do to comply with the relevant legislation surrounding its removal.
Eight days later, on 9 March, a complaint was received by HSE from a member of the public advising that the asbestos was not being removed properly. Mr Carlton, trading as Heathcliff Developments, was told to have surveys carried out and to arrange for the licensed removal of the material.
However, when inspectors re-visited the site on 17 May they found that building rubble containing asbestos had not been properly disposed of. They served a prohibition notice to stop all work and a direction to 'leave undisturbed' was imposed on the piles of contaminated rubble.
HSE inspectors made a third unannounced visit on 13 October and found workers in breach of the prohibition notice. They found two workers putting asbestos insulation board into a lockable skip and 'dry sweeping' the dust, which resulted in large clouds of contaminated dust billowing across the site.
Work was again stopped until arrangements were made for safe and proper removal of asbestos materials.
The court heard that although employees had been wearing disposable overalls and face masks, no other controls were in place so not enough was done to protect them from the risk of exposure. Dust would have contaminated their clothes and there was no water on site to enable decontamination.
The asbestos-containing material should have been dampened down and double-bagged in special bags, before being removed by a licensed contractor. High-efficiency vacuum cleaners should then have been used to remove smaller pieces of asbestos and dust rather than a broom.
James Roger Carlton, also known as Roger Stephen Parry, of Meeting House Lane, South Leverton, pleaded guilty to single breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006, and 10 breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 - 12 charges in total - at an earlier hearing.
He was sentenced yesterday (10 July) to eight months in prison, suspended for two years, for the breach of the prohibition notice. He was also fined £55,000 and ordered to pay a further £45,000 in costs.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Kevin Wilson said: "Mr Carlton showed a willful disregard for the health and safety of his employees and others. Our investigation uncovered a catalogue of serious errors, safety failings and a general ignorance of the laws around the safe and correct removal of asbestos.
"This was an appalling case of failing to properly plan, manage and resource this project which led to workers being exposed to risks to their health from asbestos.
"Workers who have been exposed to asbestos could have posed a health risk to others in the long term, even their families and loved ones, by taking home their contaminated clothing.
"Asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK. Building owners and contractors have a duty to ensure they protect their workers from risk of exposure. Mr Carlton failed in that duty by choosing to ignore the dangers of this hidden killer."