While the work was being carried out in February 2011, local residents raised concerns that asbestos materials were being smashed up and littering the site. In addition they claimed that debris was dropping from height onto the road and footpath, and that despite the site being close to a school it was insecure.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was alerted and served three enforcement notices relating to unsafe practices that forced the site to be closed until urgent improvements were made.
Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that the HSE investigation found that numerous precautions could and should have been taken to ensure the site was safe.
The Court was informed that the company should have carried out an asbestos survey and produced a health and safety plan as well as a plan of demolition to ensure the buildings came down in a safe manner. Furthermore, safe working platforms such as scaffolding could also have been used to prevent people and material from falling or dropping, or buildings could have been demolished remotely.
On top of this, asbestos should have been removed intact to prevent the release of fibres, then segregated and correctly disposed of while debris should have been progressively cleared allowing for safe access around the site.
It was also revealed that the firm employed inexperienced labourers to carry out demolition and asbestos removal, and did not supply them with appropriate instruction, training, or supervision.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and as a result was fined £36,000 plus £9,159 in costs along with £15 surcharge.
Following the hearing, HSE Inspector, Helen Donnelly, said:
“Members of the public rightly raised concerns about the unsafe working practices they witnessed at Quintin Avenue, and I applaud them for doing so.
“AA Construction (London) Ltd took a reckless approach to demolition, which could have resulted in a serious incident.
“Construction projects need to properly planned and safely managed by competent personnel using the right procedures and equipment. That clearly didn’t happen here, and I hope lessons have been learned.”