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Firm made no effort to obtain asbestos surveys

A plumbing company failed to take steps to prevent two workers being exposed to asbestos fibres during a refurbishment project at a number of flats in Aberystwyth.

Superior Plumbing Installations Ltd was the principal contractor for the refurbishment of the flats in tower blocks in the Penparcau area of the town between November 2010 and February 2011.

The company made no effort to obtain an asbestos survey, which had been carried out on the properties. It allowed a site manager and a sub-contractor to start the work without checking if asbestos was present.

In February last year, the HSE carried out a routine inspection at the site and found the work had begun without taking into account that asbestos might be present. Inspectors viewed the asbestos survey and learned that the substance was present.

The workers had removed 82 metres of cement board, which the survey identified as being “˜presumed to contain asbestos’. The men broke up the board with a hammer and shoveled it into a wheelbarrow before putting it in a general waste skip. Identical work was planned for two other properties at the site, one of which had asbestos present in the soffits.

On 23 February 2011, the HSE issued a Prohibition Notice to the firm, which ordered the work to stop until steps were put in place to protect workers form being exposed to asbestos.

HSE inspector Phil Nicolle said: “Contractors must ensure an asbestos survey has been carried out where a building ““ or part of it ““ needs upgrading, refurbishment, or demolition.

“The survey must locate and identify all asbestos-containing material before any structural work begins, and appropriate arrangements must be put in place to deal with any asbestos-containing materials that are uncovered.”

Superior Plumbing Installations appeared at Aberystwyth Magistrates’ Court on 10 December and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £5000 and ordered to pay £3830 in costs.

After the hearing, Inspector Nicolle added: “Superior Plumbing’s failure to follow advice, guidance and their own procedures to identify the presence of asbestos and plan for its safe removal has needlessly created a serious long-term risk to workers’ health.”

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