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Birmingham builders prosecuted by HSE after asbestos failings

by Redmans Solicitors on July 9, 2013

Two Birmingham-based builders have been successfully prosecuted after they seriously breached health and safety regulations.

The two self-employed builders, Mr Harnek Ram and Mr Gulzar Singh, were prosecuted by the HSE after they illegally removed and broke up asbestos panels outside a home in Handsworth, exposing the homeowners and themselves to asbestos.

The builders were working on the site in Handsworth last year between 19 and 25 May. The householder, who had received a grant from Birmingham City Council to carry out the work to convert his garage into a bedroom and bathroom for his disabled father, employed Mr Ram and Mr Singh, trading as “G Builders”. Prior to the work being commenced the Council had taken a sample from the panels of the house on which work was to be done in order to test for asbestos but the results of the sample were only received after Mr Ram and Mr Singh had broken up the panels.

A Health and Safety Executive investigation was subsequently undertaken. This investigation found that Mr Singh and Mr Ram lacked the necessary licences to authorise them to remove asbestos boards and they failed to take any of the necessary steps relating to asbestos, such as carrying out or asking to see an asbestos survey of the premises before they commenced work. The investigation recommended that the builders be prosecuted for failing to take steps to safeguard both their and other person’s safety.

The matter came before the Birmingham Magistrates Court on 4 July 2013. The court heard evidence from the HSE that the builders had failed to take adequate steps to prevent both exposure to and the spread of the asbestos fibres which were generated by their breaking up the panels.

The two builders, Mr Harnek Ram and Mr Gulzar Singh, pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Mr Ram was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay a contribution to the prosecution’s costs of £1,200. Mr Singh was also fined £2,000 and ordered to pay the same contribution to the costs of the prosecution.

Chris Hadrill, an employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “Failing to take proper health and safety precautions when dealing with any dangerous substance – whether it be asbestos or anything else – could have serious repercussions for both those carrying out the work and people in the immediate vicinity. Failing to take such steps can therefore result – as it did here – in a criminal prosecution.”

HSE inspector Mr Gareth Langston commented after the hearing: “An estimated 70% of properties contain asbestos. It is illegal to undertake any work which will disturb the fabric of the building without carrying out and obtaining the results of an asbestos survey.”

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