Builders fined over asbestos

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TWO Mansfield builders have been fined £20,000 after contaminating a 96-year-old woman’s flat while removing asbestos boards used to box in pipework.

Company directors Kevin Abbott and Stephen Mason, of Abbott and Mason Building and Joinery Contractors Ltd, failed to take proper precautions while undertaking the work at the flat in Nottingham.

The two builders and their staff left dust on the floor, failed to cover and seal furnishings properly and left asbestos panels outside the main entrance to the housing trust flats where they were working without signs to warn the public.

They even used a ‘Henry Hoover’ to clean up after dismantling the coverings from behind the bath, possibly spreading the deadly substance even further.

Most of pensioner Ann Jenkins’ possessions had to be thrown out of her flat as a result of the poor safety procedures used by Abbott and Mason and she has since died.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Inspector Frances Bailey told Nottingham Magistrates’ Court on Monday that the pensioner lost all soft furnishings and clothes in her flat after being exposed to asbestos as she sat in her living room while the material was removed in February last year.

The two Mansfield builders, who were helped on the job by one employee and a sub-contracted plumber, admitted five breaches of health and safety regulations.

These included failure to prevent the exposure of employees, failure to prevent the spread of asbestos, failure to store asbestos in a safe place and undertaking the work without a suitable written plan of work.

Speaking after the hearing, Insp Bailey said the company showed a wilful disregard for the health and safety of its employees and the public.

“Abbott and Mason knew the panels contained asbestos and should have dealt with it safely,” she said.

“Their actions caused a great deal of worry and stress for Mrs Jenkins, who has since passed away.”

In statement given to the court, Mrs Jenkins’ daughter, Mary Chivers, said: “My family are appalled that this incident had such devastating consequences for my mother. It was entirely preventable had proper measures been taken.

“She was very shocked and angry and found it difficult to come to terms with her situation.

“As time went on, she began missing the things she had lost and expressed grief. She was clearly distressed.”

Sundeep Soor, representing the Carter Lane firm, said it was a company of good repute, having previously completed work for Nottinghamshire County Council and its directors had been unaware there was asbestos at the flat before arriving at the job.

In addition to the fine, Abbott and Mason were ordered to pay £5,741 in court costs.