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Surrey firm in court after asbestos find at school

A building contractor has been fined for ignoring asbestos safety rules after the potentially deadly material was discovered in a basement area at the independent Woldingham girls’ school in Caterham.

Buxton Building Contractors, of High Street, Caterham, Surrey, which was carrying out refurbishment work at the school in 2011, had commissioned a specialist survey to identify the presence of asbestos in the undercroft part of the building, but then failed to act when the results were positive.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the incident, which came to light on 21 July 2011, and today (13 January) prosecuted the company for safety breaches.

Guildford Crown Court was told that Buxton Building Contractors was the principal contractor for a scheme to remodel the school’s dining area and kitchen.

The firm had asked a surveyor to look specifically at the undercroft area as it had been omitted from an earlier asbestos report.

After the worker discovered the presence of the asbestos insulation board, the area was sealed off by a licensed asbestos contractor.

Buxton Building Contractors was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £26,217 after admitting a breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by failing to plan, manage and properly monitor the construction work at the school.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Melvyn Stancliffe said: “This was a serious failing on the part of the company. Having correctly commissioned an asbestos survey, it looks as though no one at Buxton Contractors bothered to read it. Or if they did, they disregarded its contents and failed to act to protect site workers from exposure to what is one of the deadly killers in the construction industry.

“It is vital that companies are fully aware of not just the duty to get an asbestos survey done, but then to act on its findings. There is considerable guidance freely available from HSE to assist duty-holders deal with asbestos materials properly.”

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