Columbus Building Contractors Ltd, a Suffolk based company were hired by homeowners to carry out kitchen and garage extensions in Ipswich.

During work on the property, it exposed workers and homeowners to potentially fatal asbestos material during work. The conversion work took place between 8th May and 2nd August in 2012.

Ipswich Magistrates court heard (20th May) that upon removal of insulating ceiling boards, that formed fire breaks witin the building, they were removed, broken up and left on the homeowners’ front lawn. the debris was the put into open bags and left. Homeowners’ had to remove these bags themselves, and were only made aware of the potntial hazards of asbestos during a trip with these bags to the local tip.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated and prosecuted the company for breaching asbestos safety regulations.

The court was told a licensed contractor had to undertake waste removal of the remaining asbestos material and conduct an environmental clean under fully-controlled conditions.

Columbus Building Contractors Ltd, of Crofton Road, Ipswich, Suffolk, were fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay £6,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching regulations 8(1) and 11(1)(a) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Adam Hills said:

“This is an incident that was entirely preventable. Columbus Building Contractors had worked with this type of material before and had asbestos knowledge. They questioned the presence of asbestos materials in the ceiling but made no efforts to obtain an asbestos survey or take samples for analysis to establish if asbestos was contained within the ceiling.

“After removal, the asbestos material was simply left on the front lawn before being bagged in open sacks and transported to the local tip by the homeowner. Both the workers and homeowner would have been exposed to a significant amount of asbestos fibres during these works.

“It is absolutely essential that assumptions are not made when dealing with suspected asbestos materials. If in doubt, get it checked by a professional before starting any work.

“The dangers of exposure are well-known in the industry. There are long-term health risks associated with inhalation of asbestos fibres including lung cancer and mesothelioma.”

Further information can be found on the HSE website.

Gordon Allan of Quantum compliance comments…”