School conversion job hit by clouds of asbestos dust
A property developer who exposed employees to asbestos has been given an eight-month suspended prison sentence and been ordered to pay fines and costs of £100,000.
Nottingham Crown Court heard that James Roger Carlton,64, of South Leverton ignored 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 HSE visited the school, which was being converted into a retirement complex, on 1 March 2012 during a construction safety initiative.
An inspector identified the type of building which is known to contain asbestos, and gave Carlton advice on what he needed to do to comply with the relevant legislation surrounding its removal.
Eight days later, a complaint was received by HSE from a member of the public advising that the asbestos was not being removed properly.
Carlton, trading as Heathcliff Developments, was told to have surveys carried out and to arrange for the licensed removal of the material.
But when inspectors re-visited the site they found building rubble containing asbestos that had not been properly disposed off in this way.
A Prohibition Notice was immediately served to stop all work.
HSE inspectors made a third unannounced visit 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.
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.
Carlton, also known as Roger Stephen Parry, pleaded guilty to 12 safety breaches at an earlier hearing.
He was sentenced to eight months is 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.”