Asbestos offences cost building firm £33,000

Preston building firm Chelford Properties was fined £22,500 with £11,027 costs by Preston magistrates on 21 April for allowing asbestos to be crushed during demolition work and tipping waste at other building sites.

In 2001, Chelford began demolishing buildings at the site of the former Preston cold store as part of its plans to build houses on the site. Although the company noticed that asbestos was present in the buildings during an inspection before the demolition, it did not commission a proper asbestos survey.

Tender packages sent to potential subcontractors did not mention the presence of asbestos, nor did they require the subcontractors to carry out a survey themselves.

Under the demolition contract subsequently awarded to Leigh Demolition and Plant Hire, all suitable demolition material was to be crushed on site and kept for Chelford's future use as hardcore.

The issue of asbestos removal was not properly addressed. Some asbestos roof sheeting was placed in closed skips, but the rest was not removed before demolition.

When the Health and Safety Executive visited the site following complaints, it found that neither Leigh nor Chelford could provide information on the asbestos content of the demolished buildings. Samples of crushed waste taken separately by the HSE and the Environment Agency were found to contain white asbestos.

The site was not securely fenced.

A security guard told the Agency that children had got into it almost daily and he had not seen anyone damping down the waste, as Chelford had been advised to do to minimise the risk of asbestos fibres being released into the air.

Some of the waste was used by Chelford to redevelop a site in Wigan next to a nursery school and close to houses. The Agency found over 50 piles of waste at the site which appeared to be contaminated with asbestos. Its emergency team was called in immediately to cover the waste and the school was closed for several days as a precaution.

More waste from the Preston site was sold by Chelford and used to build a temporary road at a construction site in Warrington.

Chelford was given two fines of £5,000 for keeping waste at the Preston and Wigan sites, neither of which had a waste management licence, contrary to sections 33(1)(b) and 33(6) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

The company also pleaded guilty to two charges brought by the HSE under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. It was fined £10,000 for failing to ensure the safety of persons not in its employment during the demolition of the Preston site, contrary to sections 3(1) and 33(1)(a). And it was fined £2,500 for not ensuring that a health and safety plan was prepared for the site before construction began, contrary to section 33(1)(c).

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