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Contractor fined for exposing workers to Asbestos

A building contractor has been fined £50,000 after workers were potentially exposed to deadly Asbestos material discovered in a school basement.

Buxton Building Contractors Ltd was carrying out refurbishment work at Woldingham girls’ school in Caterham and had commissioned a specialist survey to identify the presence of asbestos in the undercroft part of the building.

But the company failed to act when the results were positive.

The firm allowed a number of different contractors, including a teenage apprentice, to work in the area until one worker raised the alarm himself when he broke through the ceiling and exposed asbestos insulation boarding.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the incident and prosecuted the company for safety breaches.

Guildford Crown Court was told that Buxton Building Contractors Ltd 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.

HSE’s investigation found the survey had highlighted the presence of the hazardous material, however, Buxton Building Contractors had failed to act either to deal with it or to provide any safeguards on site.

Buxton Building Contractors Ltd, of High Street, Caterham, Surrey, 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.

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 Ltd bothered to read it.

“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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