Balfour Beatty fined £500,000 over asbestos exposure in London school
A client of contractor Balfour Betty, its demolition contractor and a former trading division of the company have together been fined been fined £1.27m after it was discovered that they exposed workers to asbestos during a project to create a new home for a primary school.
It took place in July 2012 as part of a £3m project to convert the former Warwick School in Walthamstow into the new St Mary’s Primary School. The school was being partially used at the time however, it is thought that no pupils were exposed to the asbestos fibres and the students were moved to another site during remedial works.
Balfour Betty was fined the most at £500,000 with their client NPS London being fined £370,00. Finally, the demolition contractor was fined £400,000 plus another £175,000 in costs.
The London Borough of Waltham Forest had a contract with NPS London which is a property and development management company owned by Norfolk County Council. NPS London was hired to oversee the works taking place at St Mary’s.
NPS then appointed Mansell Construction Services as principal contractor for the project. Mansell Construction Services is the former trading name for part of Balfour Betty. Demolition specialist Squibb Group was acting as Mansell’s subcontractor.
The asbestos was discovered by a worker in July 2012 when he went to remove part of a suspended ceiling in one of the ground floor classrooms. The asbestos fibres were subsequently discovered in numerous areas in the school.
The HSE launched an investigation and it found that even though an asbestos survey had been completed, the document included multiple caveats and disclaimers, and Mansell had not appropriately checked or assessed it. As a result of this, steps were not taken to sufficiently protect workers at risk of exposure.
This is not the first time that the London Borough of Waltham Forest has been fined over health and safety violations. In June 2015, the borough was fined £66,000 for failing to protect employees who were exposed to asbestos in the basement of the town hall.
After the investigation was complete Balfour Betty was fined £500,000 and ordered to pay £32,364 in costs after they plead guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act.
NPS London was fined £370,000 and ordered to pay costs of £32,364 after pleading guilty to section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act.
Finally, demolition contractor Squibb Group was fined £400,000 and ordered to pay £175,000 in costs after being found guilty of breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act.
HSE inspector Sarah Robinson concluded after the hearing that “The Principal contractor and contractors on site did not review the survey report in detail, and did not take into consideration the multitude of caveats. Therefore, the work undertaken did not adopt the high standards of control expected for working where there was the potential to expose workers to asbestos.”