Several workers were exposed to asbestos during a demolition and refurbishment project in Swansea in December 2010.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has prosecuted Wall Colmonoy and Oaktree Construction over the incident, after discovering a catalogue of errors had been made. Wall Colmonoy had contracted Oaktree Construction to oversee the renovation of a building that it hoped would allow it to expand.
However, it was clear that the scheme had been badly managed and staff who were untrained for certain roles had been put in charge. Arguably the main offence committed by the groups was that the surveys for asbestos had been inadequate, meaning the extent of the threat facing employees was not known.
Anne Marie Orrells, an HSE inspector, explained: "Both companies involved in this case demonstrated significant failings throughout the management of the project, which put the lives of their respective workers at risk.
"Demolition and refurbishment work must be properly planned and managed by competent personnel with the right training and experience. Proper structural and asbestos surveys must be made and a full risk assessment carried out for all the work to be undertaken."
The HSE discovered that Wall Colmonoy had failed to recruit a suitable construction, design and management co-ordinator and principal contractor. These experts could have been utilised to ensure the safety regulations were not breached at any point.
During a recent court appearance, both companies pleaded guilty to various safety at work offences. Wall Colmonoy was fined £16,000 and told to pay more than £3,200 in costs, while Oaktree Construction was fined £8,000 and ordered to meet expenses of £2,000.
According to the HSE's own figures, asbestos remains the greatest single cause of work-related deaths in the UK, emphasising just how important it is to deal with it adequately and identify any threats that may exist. Kitting workers out with the best respiratory equipment can be another good idea by companies that have a duty to protect their employees.