A formal Crown Censure from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was issued to The Ministry of Defence (MOD) today, after potentially exposing workers to deadly asbestos fibres.

MOD cannot be prosecuted as a private company would be in the criminal courts, as it is classified as a crown body.

The Censure was received by a senior manager from Defence Estates on behalf of MOD, who attended a formal Crown Censure hearing at HSE’s East Grinstead Office today (13 September 2010).

Defence Estates is an operating arm of the MOD and is responsible for managing the military estate – including managing asbestos on the estate.

In early 2005 an asbestos survey at an MOD base near Bicester, Oxfordshire was ignored for more than a year. The original survey considered a boiler room on the base to be contaminated with asbestos and the report recommended access to the room be restricted until the asbestos had been removed.

Defence Estates and their facilities management company Interserve (Defence) Ltd, of Waterloo Road, London, failed to follow the advice of the survey and, consequently, workers were left at risk of exposure to deadly asbestos fibres.

HSE made clear its view that MOD did not comply with regulations 4(8)(c), 6(1)(a) and 10(1)(a) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2002 at the Bicester MOD site between 23 May 2005 and 30 September 2006.

Defence Estates accepted the Crown Censure on behalf of MOD after explaining the action it had taken and continues to take to prevent a recurrence at the Bicester site and other MOD sites it has responsibility for.

HSE Director for its East and South East Division, Heather Bryant, who chaired the Censure hearing said:

“Defence Estates and Interserve (Defence) Ltd knew that asbestos-containing materials existed at the Bicester site but the arrangements they had in place for managing them were not effective in controlling this well-known risk.