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Fine for Solihull Supplies Ltd and Birmingham City Council

06/09/11: A refurbishment firm based in Solihull, and Birmingham City Council have both been found guilty of safety misconduct, due to the exposure of 3 workers to asbestos during a school refurbishment.

The company Solihull Supplies Ltd, based out of Lodge Road, Knowle took a contract from Birmingham City Council, to perform a refurbishment of the reception at the William Cowper Community Primary School, in Newtown, Birmingham. Another company was subsequently contracted by Solihull Supplies Ltd to refurbish ceiling tiles, but a thorough risk assessment for asbestos was not carried out.

It was heard on the 24th of July 2009 by Birmingham Magistrates’ Court that two employees who worked for the firm were given the job of stripping away ceiling tiles from seven different rooms that were up for refurbishment. It was found, however, by an investigation led by a Health and Safety Executive (HSE), that brown asbestos was present within the ceiling tiles, and while the work continued on for a number of hours, both the contractors and a school caretaker would have been exposed to the asbestos.

The court found that the firm contracted by Solihull Supplies Ltd had no proper license for the work and removal of asbestos, had no knowledge of how to work with asbestos, and had given no training to its employees over safe work conduct around asbestos.

After the hearing, Jo Anderson – the HSE investor for the case – said that the blame lies with Birmingham City Council, and the firms associated, in that the workers at the scene have to now live with the fact that have been exposed to asbestos, and the possible lung disease and other associated illnesses that they may contract in the future.
She added that the health implications of asbestos exposure for the long term are well documented, and because of this, incidents of this nature are completely unacceptable. She finalised by stating that this case could have easily been prevented if the council and firms involved took the proper precautions and safety assessments.

The Birmingham City Council, based in Victoria Square, Birmingham, pleaded guilty to the violation of Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and paid out £5,000 in damages, and a further £1,091 in legal costs.
Additionally, Solihull Supplies Ltd, of Lodge Road, Knowle, Solihull, pleaded guilty to the violation of Regulation 6(1)(a) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006, and paid out £1,750 in damages, and a further £1,091 in legal costs.

The single largest cause of work-place deaths are asbestos related, with roughly 4,000 people dying each year due to exposure. If you would like to know more, there is Information on safety with asbestos at www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos.