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Workers exposed to toxic asbestos at Wokingham site

Published: 17 May 2014 17:30

A COMPANY was fined £10,000 after 'needlessly’ putting the lives of workers at risk through failing to inform them of a threat of asbestos.

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Redwood Contractors Ltd was ordered to pay the fine – and costs of £2,857 – after it did not disclose the presence of asbestos insulating board (AIB) at a building undergoing refurbishment, in Molly Millars Close, Wokingham.

Despite undertaking an asbestos survey just two months prior to work starting, the information about the deadly material was not passed on to the site foreman.

Mistaking the AIB for asbestos cement – which poses a much lower risk – workers ripped it out without adequate safety procedures. This put the workers at severe risk, as the substance can be 'terminal’ if inhaled, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Only a licensed asbestos contractor can remove such deadly material using specialist equipment, due to the health hazard the dangerous fibres pose.

The lack of information supplied – even though Redwood Contractors Ltd had the survey in its possession – was investigated by the HSE.

Redwood, based in Battersea, London, pleaded guilty at Reading Magistrates’ Court to two separate breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006, relating to the incident in December 2011.

It was fined by the court last Thursday.

After the case, Karen Morris, an inspector at HSE, said: “It is disappointing that the foreman and others were needlessly put at risk simply because the asbestos survey for the warehouse wasn’t supplied to the team on the ground, or the location of the AIB relayed.

“What is the point of having a suitable survey in hand if you aren’t going to act on it and share vital information with those who need to know? Sadly, breakdowns in communication of this kind are all too common, but that doesn’t excuse Redwood Contractors from failing to do more.

“The company is guilty of a clear oversight that may have compromised the future health and wellbeing of its workers. “Everyone knows that asbestos is a potential killer, and the onus is on duty holders to implement proper control measures at all times when dealing with asbestos.”

Redwood Contrac-tors Ltd declined to comment.

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