A Bristol property developer has been fined after it exposed employees to asbestos while working on a former Marks and Spencer shop building.
At least three employees of Da Vinci Developments are known to have been exposed to potentially deadly asbestos fibres while working on the former M&S building on Queen Street, Bridgwater, between 17 September and 24 October 2012.
Taunton Magistrates’ Court heard that Da Vinci Developments, of Archfield Road, Cotham, Bristol, failed to plan for the potential presence of asbestos insulation board (AIB) before developing the property.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was alerted when they were notified by a non-licensed asbestos removal company, which had been asked to quote for the removal works. The firm was aware any such work had to be carried out by a licensed asbestos removal contractor.
An investigation by HSE found Da Vinci Developments did not carry out a statutory survey to check for the presence of asbestos materials prior to starting the work.
Instead, for several weeks, workers were demolishing walls and ceilings in the building, breaking up the asbestos insulation board.
Employees were exposed to large amounts of airborne asbestos fibres, which spread through the inside and outside of the building during the work. The AIB removal should have been undertaken by a licensed contractor taking suitable control measures to prevent exposure and spread of the asbestos fibres.
Da Vinci Developments pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and were fined £9,800 and ordered to pay £796 in costs.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector James Lucas said: “It is very important that employers take appropriate measures before work starts in order to identify the potential for asbestos to be present when undertaking work.
“Appropriate measures can then be taken to ensure workers are not exposed and asbestos is not spread.
“Workers who have been exposed to asbestos could also have posed a health risk to others in the long term, even their families and loved ones, by taking home 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. Da Vinci Developments neglected their duty by failing to plan for the dangers of this hidden killer.”