District council fined over asbestos blunder

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SOUTH Kesteven District Council must pay out £20,000 of tax payers’ money after admitting two charges relating to asbestos in a Grantham council house.

The district council was prosecuted after it contracted work at a flat in Kinoulton Court out to Belton Developments, who then disturbed asbestos in the area.

Magistrates attributed the majority of the blame to the district council after hearing the authority had information showing asbestos at the flat but did not share it with Belton Developments, who were not qualified to deal with asbestos

Chair of magistrates Madge Marshall-Brown said: “This bench believes the majority of culpability lies with South Kesteven District Council which had the relevant information but did not disclose this to the contractors.”

The workers with Belton Developments removed an asbestos insulation board from around a bath and then carried it through the flat and communal areas of the housing complex in an open wheelbarrow before loading it into an open-topped van.

Fortunately, the workers were spotted by an asbestos surveyor working on behalf of the council. He stopped the workers and reported what he had seen to the council.

HSE inspector Mhairi Lockwood said: “If the alarm had not been raised it is highly likely they would have continued and people would have re-entered, breathing in asbestos fibres.”

Properly licensed workers then had to be called in to decontaminate the area and remove the asbestos before it was safe.

Richard Dale, representing Belton Developments, said he did not want to blame the district council but pointed out the council had not informed Belton Developments about the presence of asbestos before contracting them to do the work in March, 2010.

He said: “The council, to some extent, knew about this and didn’t tell them.”

He added: “These are genuine, hands-on builders who would not have let this happen if they were told there was asbestos there.”

South Kesteven District Council was fined a total of £16,000 for two breaches of health and safety regulations. The council must also pay £3,486 in court costs.

The Journal asked for details of the council’s own legal costs but the figures were unavailable at the time of going to press.

Trevor Hague, of Albourne, Lincolnshire, his son Neil Hague, of Arnold, Nottingham, and David Couth, of West Willoughby, Grantham, each admitted two breaches of health and safety regulations.

They were fined a total of £3,003 and ordered to pay costs of £900.

Speaking after the case, SKDC strategic director Tracey Blackwell said: “The health and safety of our residents and employees is very important to us and that is why we co-operated fully with the Health and Safety Executive’s investigation and immediately changed our supervision arrangements, revised our pre-contract procedures and increased our asbestos training.”

After the hearing, HSE inspector Mhairi Lockwood said: “Asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK. This case emphasises the importance of clients providing contractors with information on the presence of asbestos-containing materials including an appropriate asbestos survey in order that the significant risks from asbestos can be managed and controlled.

“Contractors need to be aware of the potential for asbestos to be disturbed while carrying out building work and provide their employees with adequate information, instruction and training so they can protect themselves and others.”