Window replacement firm fined for school asbestos dangers
A window replacement company has been fined after not taking appropriate measures to protect workers from deadly asbestos material during work at a school in Bury St Edmunds.
Frames Conservatories Direct Ltd (FCDL), from Suffolk, removed old window panels containing asbestos at Westley Middle school over the school summer holidays in 2012, promising the school that the asbestos panels would be removed by registered contractors and be disposed of properly. However, the company had no licence to work with asbestos and did not follow the correct procedures.
In a prosecution brought by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court heard that concerns were first raised when another contractor at the school noticed suspect material in a floor void and consulted a licensed asbestos contractor who then visited the school. After seeing window panels being removed, the contractor notified FCDL employees that they were handling materials likely to contain asbestos. Work was immediately stopped and the area sealed off.
A licensed contractor then took on an extensive programme of cleaning under controlled conditions in all affected areas of the school. Once completed, air tests were carried out and all areas were certified safe for re-occupation.
In total, the school had to spend £111,495 on environmental cleaning and replacement of teaching aids and other items that had to be destroyed because of contamination.
Frames Conservatories Direct Ltd, of Barton Retail Park, Barton Road, Bury St Edmunds, was fined a total of £24,000 and ordered to pay £10,571 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching regulations 8(1) and 11(1) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.
Following the hearing, HSE inspector Elizabeth Fowle said: “This incident has been extremely stressful for those affected and has also been disruptive and costly for the school. All of this could have been avoided if the company had simply asked, ‘Should we be doing this work with asbestos?’
“Frames Conservatories Direct Ltd knew the window panels they planned to remove contained asbestos but wrongly decided they would work with the material. They did not tell their employees about the presence of asbestos or specify any safety measures.
“As a result, they exposed workers to asbestos levels many times in excess of the Control Limit. The long term health risks associated with inhalation of asbestos fibres include lung cancer and mesothelioma.
“It was extremely fortunate that this work took place during the school holiday which meant that there were no pupils on site and few school staff.”
To learn more about the dangers of asbestos, and understand why it was once seen as a ‘wonder product’, take a look at this video.