Devon hoteliers fined after failing to assess presence of asbestos during refurbishment

A Devon based hoteliers has been sentenced today after materials containing asbestos were disturbed during a major refurbishment at The Park Hotel in Barnstaple, the HSE has reported.

Newton Abbot Magistrates’ Court heard that between October 2016 and May 2017 construction work was undertaken to refurbish the hotel on Taw Vale. Parts of the hotel were originally constructed during the 1960’s and 1970’s when asbestos was a popular building material. The project aimed to refit and refurbish bathrooms and bedrooms.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found that, att an early stage of the work, an employee raised concerns about the potential presence of asbestos containing materials (ACM) within the rooms under refurbishment. Enquiries were made but no physical testing of the materials being disturbed was undertaken. Work continued for several more months and concerns about the materials within the bedrooms and bathrooms were raised again by external contractors. Testing of the material being disturbed was eventually conducted in February 2017 and the presence of ACMs was confirmed.

Whilst the HSE investigation was in progress the defendant had a further incident in May 2017 where ACMs were disturbed during bathroom refurbishment works being undertaken. The planning undertaken for this work, which had included an assessment as to the presence of ACMs, was inadequate as it failed to identify the full scope of the work proposed and the materials that would be disturbed during pipework installation works.

The investigation also found that refurbishment work was undertaken at the hotel without the appropriate assessment as to the presence of asbestos containing materials. Once identified the hotel took remedial action which included sampling of common parts for asbestos fibres, which came back as negative.

Percy R Brend and Sons (Hoteliers) Ltd of Taw Vale, Barnstaple pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. They have been fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £14,999.60.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Jo-Anne Michael said:

“The dangers associated with asbestos are well known and a wealth of advice and guidance is freely available from HSE and other organisations.

Identification of the hazard is key. Duty holders should not undertake any work which either exposes or is liable to expose their employees to asbestos unless they have carried out a suitable and sufficient assessment as to the presence, location and condition of asbestos in the premises. Those persons tasked with undertaking the assessment should have the necessary skills.”